Locating of the body of pregnant Marine Wife Erin Corwin—missing for seven weeks—and the arrest of a suspect, boyfriend Christopher Lee, came about as the result of a remarkable job by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. Managing Editor Tami Roleff said the conclusion of this phase of the Corwin saga was the result of hard work and science…

Erin Corwin 3

The body of Erin Corwin, the pregnant 19-year-old Twentynine Palms Marine wife who has been missing since June 28, has been found. Sheriff John McMahon said at a press conference yesterday that detectives and hundreds of search-and-rescue personnel, including searchers who specialize in searching mines, spent more than 5,000 hours searching 300 square miles in the Brooklyn Mining District, Los Angeles Mining District, and Rose of Peru Mining District, east of Twentynine Palms.
“More than 100 mine shafts were identified and numerous bodies of water were located and searched. On Saturday, August 16, the search concluded with the discovery of Erin Corwin’s body in a 140-foot mine shaft.”

Sheriff's photo of the area where Erin Corwin's body was found.

Sheriff’s photo of the area where Erin Corwin’s body was found.

Homicide detective Sergeant Trevis Newport explains how the search-and-rescue personnel narrowed down the area to search. “We did forensics examinations of some computer technology, some cell phones, and many other electronic devices, and through those forensic exams we were able to determine a potential location for Erin Corwin’s body.”

Newport said the area where her body was found was very rough terrain. “It is not a very easily accessible area…. One would have a difficult time even in a 4-wheel-drive vehicle. It’s a very dangerous area. There are lots of mine pits out there, and it’s very remote.”

He then described how they found her body. “One of our mining teams sent a camera down into a particular shaft, approximately 140 feet down, and we were able to locate Erin—what we believed at the time was a female corpse. Due to the air quality, we were unable to extract the remains from the bottom of the mine shaft on that day.”

County Fire Chief Mark Hartwig discussed the rescue operation on Sunday afternoon. “The rescue operation was about two hours. We made two entries. The first entry was to collect evidence. The second rescue was to then extract the body of Ms. Corwin.”

The remains were positively identified through dental records just three hours after the recovery as being Erin Corwin, and shortly afterward, her former neighbor and alleged lover, Christopher Lee, a Marine who was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps in July, was arrested in Alaska for homicide.

Photo of suspect Christopher Lee.

Photo of suspect Christopher Lee.

Depending on whether Lee fights extradition, he could return to California in just a few days or up to four to five weeks. Earlier today, District Attorney Michael Ramos announced Christopher Lee will be charged with murder with special circumstances of lying in wait, which could mean, if Lee is convicted, the death penalty.

Follow by Email


  • Susan Abbott

    Good investigative work. There’s an awful thin line though between a hate crime and a crime of passion. It all falls under woman-hating.Thank you for perservering to find her body.

  • Janet Bishop Pratt

    Great job by law enforcement and investigators. With the sheer size of the search area and the number of empty mine shafts, this looked like an impossible task. I figured he dumped her in a mine shaft, but didn’t think she would ever be found. I thought he was going to get away with it. Glad that they were able to bring closure to the family and a bad guy to justice. Also, kudos to Z107.7 for up to date and accurate reporting. Well done. I live in Reno, now, but I’m proud of my hometown for rising to the occasion during this sad investigation.

  • Eleanor Loomis

    When we were young, first coming to 29 . . had a jeep and explored everywhere. We were careful due to the open pits . . my husband went on to join Search and Rescue, 29 Palms and did many a mine recovery . . so, when Erin went missing I felt that was where she was, yet I never heard the searchers were looking at the mining area . . should have know thats what they were doing . . so proud of you all that you kept at it and would have kept at it until you found her . . thank you all.

  • David Baldonado

    I will always be reminded of Erin. Because she was found almost in my backyard. Every time I look up there I will be reminded. RIP

  • Max

    Wow. Thank you to the The San Bernardino Sheriff Department for solving this crime and arresting the suspect, hope he gets the same sentence that he gave to his victim.

  • John

    Anyone wonder why there are hundreds of mines, some 140 feet deep, that haven’t been filled in? Do they check each hole every time someone is missing?

    Seems like the mines are a hazard that need to be eliminated.

  • Rich

    Thank God that Erins body has been found. The guy that killed her must have thought he had carried out the perfect crime and that he would never be charged for her murder. I am so proud of those that pursued their efforts to find Erin and that those efforts finally paid off. Why not safe Taxpayers a lot of money and just dump the killer into a old mine shaft and seal the opening shut! I wonder just how many bodies there might be in many of these old open mine shafts, just might be a lot of them.

  • Sam

    Thank you, Search and Rescue for all you do. Without your compassionate citizenry there would be many families who never would have closure. I hope that the S & R team member who was hit by falling rock in the mine shaft will recover soon.

    RIP, Erin and child

    If this is what the face of a man who killed his child and the mother of his child in premeditated cold blood looks like how is anyone supposed to tell what lurks in any man’s heart? He looks like any average grubby guy from the Basin that you might see at Walmart or Home Depot.

Leave a Reply