Judge to unseal 3 warrants in Marine wife's murder
VISTA, Calif. (AP) — A judge agreed Wednesday to unseal three of 22 search warrants that were served during an investigation into the death of a Camp Pendleton Marine's wife.
San Diego County Superior Court Judge Runston Maino said the warrants will be unsealed at 5 p.m. on July 5, giving attorneys in the case time to appeal his decision before the information becomes public.
He added he's limiting the warrants' release to only three because the information in many of them is redundant.
Roommates Louis Ray Perez, Jessica Lynn Lopez and Dorothy Maraglino have pleaded not guilty to murder.
Prosecutors say 22-year-old Brittany Killgore disappeared after agreeing to go on a dinner cruise with Perez, who is also a Marine. Her body was found near a Southern California lake in April.
Investigators have not revealed a possible motive for the killing.
Ten news organizations, including The Associated Press, sought access to the warrants in the investigation.
Maino said the three warrants to be unsealed would be representative of all that were served and would include a suicide letter written by Lopez.
Before they are released, he plans to redact names of some of the witnesses and other personal information.
Lawyers for Lopez and Maraglino argued that the warrants' release would prevent their clients from receiving a fair trial. Perez's attorney, Jeff Reichert, has supported unsealing the warrants. At a hearing before another judge in April, he said Lopez's note shows "very, very clearly" that she killed Killgore and that his client was not involved.
U-T San Diego obtained the suicide note from Lopez, who turned 25 on the day Killgore disappeared. Lopez was found by paramedics four days later in a San Diego motel with what authorities called minor, self-inflicted cuts.
In the note, Lopez describes grabbing Killgore's ankle when she entered their Fallbrook home, slamming her into the stairs, shooting her with a stun gun and strangling her with a rope. Lopez wrote that she drove to the beach to dump handcuffs and a knife in a portable toilet, according to the newspaper. She claimed she drove to the lake to dispose of Killgore's body.
A person familiar with the case confirmed the note's descriptions to The Associated Press. That person spoke on condition of anonymity because the note is still under seal.
The judge noted Wednesday that much of the information in the warrants has already been made public by the media.
The San Diego County district attorney's office argued that unsealing the documents may jeopardize the defendants' right to a fair trial, damage an ongoing investigation and violate the victim's privacy.
Guylyn Cummins, the attorney representing the news organizations, argued that speculative fears about pre-trial publicity does not stand as an argument for keeping the warrants sealed, especially in a city with a jury pool as large as San Diego's.
"The media is unaware of any compelling interest that has been demonstrated by anyone to support secrecy of the search warrants in this case," she said.
All three defendants were being held on $3 million bail. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for Aug. 21.
Associated Press writer Elliot Spagat in San Diego contributed to this report.