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Not Guilty Plea From Marine Accused In Death Of Military Wife

A veteran Camp Pendleton Marine accused in the death of a 22-year-old military wife who went missing after a planned night on the town with him pleaded not guilty yesterday to murdering her.

Staff Sgt. Louis Ray Perez, 45, was ordered held on $3 million bail in the death of Brittany Killgore of Fallbrook.

On the night of April 13, Killgore, whose estranged husband was serving a combat deployment in Afghanistan, was supposed to go out with Perez and a second woman who wound up canceling out on the plan, according to prosecutors.

Later that night, Killgore sent a text message to a friend saying she was in distress and needed help, Deputy District Attorney Patrick Espinoza said this morning at Perez's arraignment in Vista.

Investigators subsequently contacted Perez, who said he had dropped off Killgore in downtown San Diego, when in fact he had been in Fallbrook at the time in question, according to the prosecutor.

Perez, a 16-year member of the Marine Corps, pleaded not guilty last week on unrelated charges of stealing an assault rifle and a motorcycle from a trailer at Camp Pendleton. At that time, authorities described him only as a "person of interest'' in Killgore's death.

During a search of Perez's vehicle, detectives discovered the victim's blood and a weapon, Espinoza told Superior Court Judge Kimberlee Lagotta.

Killgore's body was found April 17, dumped alongside a rural road near Lake Skinner in Riverside County.

Perez was the second person charged in Killgore's death. His roommate, 25-year-old Jessica Lynn Lopez, also is accused of murder in the case.

The serviceman's attorney, Jeff Reichert, told Lagotta a note found when a suicidal Lopez was arrested in a Point Loma motel room exonerates his client. According to Reichert, the message written by Lopez indicates that she killed Killgore and that Perez had nothing to do with the homicide.

However, Lagotta, who agreed to keep the note under seal, said Perez represented a "serious danger'' to the community and was deserving of high bail.

Perez and Lopez, who will be back in court May 10 for a readiness conference and May 30 for a preliminary hearing, each face 25 years to life in prison if convicted.

Espinoza declined to comment on reports that Perez had an interest in sadomasochism and bondage or how that may or may not tie into the case.

Several days before she went missing, Killgore filed for divorce from her Marine husband. She had planned to move this month to Pennsylvania, where her parents live, according to her grandmother.

Following his wife's disappearance, Cory Killgore was granted leave to return from overseas to San Diego County.

This afternoon, he released his first public statements about the death of his wife, saying she had been "beautiful beyond words'' and describing himself as "devastated'' by her loss.

"My duty to her memory is now to ensure her good reputation remains intact, and help law enforcement and prosecutors secure justice for the person or persons who took her away from me,'' he said.

"Brittany's death cannot be in vain. At this point, I don't know how to use this tragedy for good, but others have found their way, and I hope to do the same. Brittany meant too much to do any less.''

The Marine urged people to "honor my wife's name, and don't succumb to salacious gossip and rumor.''

"Brittany was a beautiful, good person who did not deserve this,'' he added.

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