The jury is expected to begin deliberations today for a former Twentynine Palms Marine who is accused of murdering a Murrieta man and burying his body in Joshua Tree National Park. Prosecutors say Curtis Krueger, 32, killed 54-year-old Henry Stange with a weight at Stange’s home in May 2018, and that his girlfriend, Ashlie Stapp, 29, helped him clean up the crime scene and bury the body. Stapp said she had sex with Stange in exchange for drugs, and told Krueger that Stange had raped her. Krueger claims he killed Stange in self-defense when Stange approached him with a knife. Stapp pleaded guilty to being an accessory in July 2019 and was sentenced to 10 months in jail and three years of probation. If convicted, Curtis Krueger could spend the rest of his life in prison.

Prosecutors showed an aerial photo of Joshua Tree National Park showing the location of the shallow grave where Henry Stange’s body was found by a hiker about a week after he was murdered. Courtesy photo

During the trial that started August 17 at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta, Stapp testified that Stange was her “drug dealer” and that although the sex with him was consensual, she said she woke up one time in 2017 tied to Stange’s bed with a camera pointed at her. She said that made her feel “violated.”

Prosecutors showed a photo of Ashlie Stapp, and Henry Stange, 54, who supplied Stapp with drugs in exchange for sex. Courtesy photo

She said she tried to keep her relationship with Stange a secret from Krueger because she didn’t want Krueger to know she took drugs and that she traded sex for drugs. But she testified that in January 2018 Krueger found her at a convenience store near Stange’s residence, and she told him that she was a drug addict and that Stange had raped her. Krueger and Stapp returned to Stange’s house, where Krueger went inside and beat Stange with a hammer. They then left. Stapp returned the next day and found him alive, but his couch was covered in blood.

Prosecutors show a photo of a hammer they say Curtis Krueger used to beat Henry Stange in January 2018, five months before they say Krueger killed Stange. Courtesy photo

Stapp returned to Stange’s house May 24, 2018 for more drugs. While she was getting high, she heard Stange cry out in pain from the garage.

Krueger testified that he had followed Stapp to Stange’s house that day because he was worried that Stange would rape her again. He found Stange inside his garage and that Stange pulled a knife on him. He said during the struggle Stange tried to grab a weight to hit him, but Krueger was able to take the weight away. Krueger then beat Stange to death with the weight.

Prosecutors show a photo of the abandoned house where Curtis Krueger and Ashlie Stapp lived in Twentynine Palms in 2018. Courtesy photo

Krueger said it was Stapp’s idea to hide the body and conceal the crime.

Krueger and Stapp were arrested by Murrieta police in August 2018, but the district attorney felt the evidence was weak and didn’t file charges. Detectives tapped the couple’s phones, and in December 2018, felt they had enough evidence to arrest them again.

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