A missing person's case out of San Bernardino Valley, California, is starting to gain international attention as it involves three different romantic relationships, a pregnant Marine's wife, and a mysterious set of circumstances. 20-year-old Erin Corwin has been missing since June 28 out of San Bernardino, California after telling her husband she was going scouting for a hiking trail in Joshua Tree National Park. Erin has not been seen since. Until recently, most media outlets were reporting that a suspect or person of interest had not been named in this case and that it was not out of the question that Erin had disappeared or taken off entirely on her own accord. The newest warrants released in the case however suggest otherwise, and the San Bernardino Police Department are now looking for a crime scene according to 630 Radio WPRO News on July 26.
When Erin Corwin went for a hike on the day of June 28 she was a 19-year-old teenager who was carrying what may have been her second child. 630 Radio WPRO News is also reporting today that Erin Corwin had miscarried a pregnancy just months before she went missing. She had since become pregnant again and went missing with a confirmed pregnancy, and turned 20 last week.
According to the search warrants, on June 28 Erin told her husband she was heading to the park to search for hiking trails she could enjoy with her mother who was expected to be making a visit from Tennessee within a matter of days. Erin did not come home that evening, and her husband called the police the next day.
A friend that has known Erin for 8 years spoke highly of Erin with ABC,
"She loved her horses and loved her family. She just always was laughing and having fun and trying to cheer people up."
The friend also talked to ABC about a miscarriage that Erin had suffered earlier this year, after posting on Facebook in January that she was pregnant.
"She was really sad about it. She wanted kids. She loves kids and she thought she was really positive about it."
The latest search warrants on the case suggest that the lead detectives investigating the disappearance of Erin Corwin suspect that her neighbor, a man named Christopher Lee who is also a Marine, may be the father of her current unborn child. Until recently, no persons of interest had been named in the case, the warrants recently released by the San Bernardino Sheriff's however suggest that this may no longer be the case.
Investigators from the San Bernardino Police Department have stated in this warrant that their suspicions began to rise against Christopher Lee as a possible persons of interest after he was first contacted by police.
Upon first point of contact by the police following the disappearance of his next door neighbour Erin Corwin, Chris Lee told the police that he barely knew Erin. According to the search warrant at this first point of contact,
"Lee denied knowing much about Erin and said he and his wife [Nicole] only knew her as an acquaintance. The last time he spoke to Erin was approximately two months ago."
Police would later find out that not only was this not the case, but that Lee had also supposedly seen Erin the day she disappeared, according to text messages forwarded from one of Erin's closest friends. About this development in the case, the warrant against Chris Lee and Nicole Lee reads,
"Jessica Trenthan, Erin's friend in Tennessee, confirmed Erin and Lee were romantically involved and Erin may be pregnant with his child. Erin told Jessica that Lee was worried if his wife discovered Erin was pregnant, the wife would divorce him and keep him from his child. Jessica knew Erin were going on a hike together on June 28 for a celebration of Erin's pregnancy."
The warrant goes on to say that Lee was going to be taking Erin hiking that day, according to text messages written by Erin herself, to celebrate her pregnancy. At some point after Erin left with Lee, her phone was turned off and it is not known if it has been turned on since. Investigators have also recovered Erin's vehicle, and tracked her footprints from that vehicle to a set of tire prints consistent with the tire prints of Christopher Lee's Jeep.
After this information was recovered, law enforcement visited Chris Lee again and his story changed on his relationship with Erin. He told law enforcement she was slightly more than an acquaintance, and that they had "previously kissed each other but never had sexual intercourse."
Media outlets have been reporting that the police do not have any suspects in this case, but the warrant suggests otherwise.
July 1 the police paid a visit to both Lee and his wife Nicole, and the warrant details a conversation about the firearms the couple owned. Nicole admitted the couple owned a .22 caliber rifle.
That same day a search was executed on the couple's home with the police looking for firearms, women's clothing that was not Nicole's, and information that was either written or electronic between Lee and Erin. The warrant indicated that the .22 caliber firearm previously indicated by Nicole Lee was not located during the search.
The police seized the vehicle for processing by the Sheriff's Scientific Investigations Division (SID) according to the warrant. The warrant also says that a total of 10 fired cartridge casings of .40 caliber were seized in the search, but a firearm matching those casings has not yet been located.
ABC News is also reporting some peculiar statements made by the couple in question. ABC News visited the horse ranch that Erin Corwin is a volunteer at. ABC News wanted to talk with another individual named in the warrant against Chris and Nicole Lee, Isabella Megli who owns the White Rock Horse Rescue Ranch where both Erin and Chris Lee are volunteers.
The owner, Isabella Megli spoke very highly of Erin and her affinity for horses.
"She came here to find a horse, to volunteer and to enjoy herself with horse riding. It offered her someplace to go, peace of mind."
Isabella also told ABC that a particular horse that Erin loved was named Cassie, and that when it arrived at the ranch, it was "skin and bones" until it came under Erin's care. Under Erin's thoughtful and loving wing, Cassie was able to gain over 300 pounds.
Isabella also remembers Chris Lee as being very helpful around the ranch.
"Chris is wonderful. He was very good to me and he did a lot of nice things for the ranch. He would fix fences, he would drive, he would take manure, he would pet the horses. He was incredible with the horses."
Her comments around Lee's wife however, Nicole, have raised the suspicions around her as a key person of interest in this case. In the warrant against Chris and Nicole, Isabella stated that Nicole had made some damaging statements in regards to the disappearance of Erin Corwin. The warrant reads,
"During that time Isabella made comments that Nicole made statements to Isabella about the detectives having missed something at the residence during the search because the detectives did not search the garage. Nicole also told Isabella that without a body, the detectives did not have a case against them and the detectives would never find the body.
Nicole stated Lee was worried because he did not have an alibi for that timeframe. Nicole also berated Lee in front of Isabella about not being able to keep his lies straight when he was interviewed by detectives because he was dumb. She stated she was able to keep her story straight and the detectives did not get any information from her."
The warrant also shows that as the detectives were speaking with Isabella about these very comments, Chris Lee and his wife Nicole arrived at the ranch. The warrant states that as they pulled up into the ranch and noticed the detectives speaking with Isabella, Chris "quickly grabbed a black duffel bag from the vehicle and took it inside the main residence."
Detectives that witnessed these events believed the couple were hiding evidence, and immediately detained the pair under those suspicions according to the warrant that reads,
"Detectives are actively working on the investigation. Lee and Nicole are being detained on the belief they were about to conceal and/or destroy evidence that may lead to the location where Erin is hidden."
630 Radio Pro News has reported today that the San Bernardino Police Department still considers this to be a missing person's investigation, but that they are "looking for a crime scene." In a statement released this week to the press, the San Bernardino Police Department said,
"Although suspicious circumstances have existed from the inception of this investigation, there is still not enough evidence to rule out that Erin Corwin could be voluntarily missing."
Chris Lee has been released on bond, and no formal arrests have been made. Fox News reports that although this is still being treated as a missing person's case, Erin had purchased tickets to attend Sea World with her mother for her birthday, and had no known psychological or medical concerns that would cause her to flee or run away.
Fox News describes Erin as 5 feet, 2 inches tall, 120 pounds with blue eyes and brown hair.
Anyone that has information related to the disappearance of Erin Corwin can anonymously contact the Sheriff's Specialized Investigation Division at (909) 387-3589, or an anonymous We-Tip Hotline at 1-800-782-7463.