The former Marine accused of killing Erin Corwin admitted searching the Internet for advice on how to dispose of a body, and .22-caliber cartridge casings and pieces of rebar at the mine shaft where she was found matched those found in his Jeep, according to an arrest warrant filed in California Superior Court.
Christopher Brandon Lee also asked a witness about the best way to dispose of a body and told investigators he was collecting tires the morning Corwin disappeared. A tire also was found at the mine shaft.
A murder charge and a special circumstance allegation of "lying in wait" were filed Tuesday against Lee, who is eligible for the death penalty.
His wife, Nichole Lee is a "person of interest" in the investigation, according to San Bernardino County sheriff's officials.
"We are looking at that to see what his wife's role actually was," District Attorney Michael Ramos said during an interview on Los Angeles-based "The John and Ken Show." "As you know, there's a penal code section that we can charge individuals with assisting or covering up serious crimes such as this, so we are investigating that. They are doing that part of the investigation right now."
Lee, 24, made his first appearance in court in connection with the case Tuesday in Alaska.
The state of Alaska filed a fugitive from justice charge against Lee and he is being held on $2 million bail at the Anchorage Correctional Complex.
During the hearing at the complex, Lee said he would like to speak to his lawyer before making a decision on whether he will waive or fight extradition to San Bernardino County. Family members at the hearing declined to comment.
If Lee waives extradition, he can be returned to San Bernardino County immediately. If he fights extradition, it may take four to six weeks.
"Once again, we are faced with a terrible crime that shows absolutely no regard for the value of human life," Ramos said in a statement. "Make no mistake that this office will fight to see that justice is carried out for our victim and her family."
Corwin was found about 4:30 p.m. Saturday in a mine shaft 140 feet below ground by using video equipment. An urban search and rescue team recovered her body about 6:30 p.m. Sunday. The mine was a few miles southeast of Twentynine Palms, outside Joshua Tree National Park in an area known as the Rose of Peru Mining District.
Christopher Lee, 24, was arrested in a traffic stop at 10 p.m. Sunday in Alaska — 30 minutes after Corwin's body was identified by dental records.
An autopsy confirmed Corwin was the victim of a homicide, but the cause of death was not released.
Investigators were still waiting for results to determine if the 19-year-old was pregnant or not.
If she was, under California law, it is feasible to add a murder charge for the death of the baby if it was a "viable" fetus, capable of living outside the womb without the mother, said Philip Drucker, a law professor at the California Desert Trial Academy in Indio.
One of the most famous cases was that of Scott Peterson, who is on death row for murdering his wife, Laci Peterson, and their unborn son in Modesto in 2002.
According to the arrest warrant, Corwin was last seen at 7 a.m. and Corwin and Lee were together that morning. Investigators believe Lee picked Corwin up where her 2013 blue Toyota Corolla was found outside the base's back Condor Gate. Tire impressions consistent with his 1997 maroon Jeep Cherokee were found there.
Lee is an ex-Marine, originally from Anchorage, Alaska, who lived next to the Corwin couple at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms.
On July 21, The Desert Sun obtained court documents revealing that detectives believed Lee and Corwin were having an affair, and that Lee may have been the father of her possible unborn child.
According to these court documents, Corwin was scheduled to join Lee on a hunting trip on the day she disappeared.
Corwin told a friend that the trip was a "special day
together," planned to celebrate the fact that she was pregnant. However, detectives believed that Lee was afraid his wife would discover the affair.
When questioned by detectives, Lee said he had kissed Corwin but that they never had sex. Lee also said he had gone hunting on the day Corwin disappeared, but that she wasn't with him.
"It is highly likely that Erin could have been harmed by an unknown firearm," the court documents state. "Sometime after Erin left with Lee, her phone was deactivated (turned off). Detectives believe if Erin was injured and left at an undisclosed location, she would not (be) able to call for help."
In the seven weeks following Corwin's disappearance, authorities and volunteers searched 300 square miles of desert. Specialized teams scoured more than 100 mine shafts and dove into multiple bodies of water.
Search warrants also were served for Lee's home and his Jeep, and detectives descended on a Yucca Valley horse farm, White Rock Horse Rescue Ranch, where the Lee couple stayed briefly in early July after Christopher Lee left the Marine Corps. The Lees and the Corwins volunteered at the ranch.
According to the court documents, Isabel Megli, owner of the horse ranch, told authorities that Nichole Lee had said detectives did not have a case "without a body," and that they would "never find the body."
Megli later told The Desert Sun that police had twisted her words in the court documents, taking her statements out of context in order to shift suspicion onto the Lee couple.
Alaska Dispatch News reporter Jerzy Shedlock and Desert Sun reporters Colin Atagi and Brett Kelman contributed to this report.