VISTA, Calif. (AP) — A Marine Corps wife allegedly killed by three people in a sex bondage ring used to socialize with its members but never participated in their alternative lifestyle, the victim's best friend testified Monday.
Elizabeth Hernandez detailed for the first time Brittany Killgore's alleged relationship to the defendants — another Marine and two women — during a preliminary hearing in San Diego County that will determine if the suspects stand trial in the case.
Marine Sgt. Louis Perez, Jessica Lopez and Dorothy Maraglino have pleaded not guilty to murder.
Hernandez said she and Killgore, 22, became acquainted with the defendants in 2011 after Hernandez responded to an ad selling a fertility monitor on a website used by military families.
Hernandez said she befriended Maraglino, 37, because the two were both trying to have a baby, and that she and Killgore regularly visited Maraglino's home where she lived with Lopez.
Hernandez said the trio openly talked about their lifestyle in which Perez played the master, Maraglino was the mistress and Lopez was the slave. They also had a giant spider web on the wall and bars on the ceiling used in their sex games.
Hernandez said she and Killgore made it clear they were not interested in participating. Instead, Hernandez and Maraglino would cook together, share recipes and talk about life, according to Hernandez's testimony.
Then Hernandez and Killgore had a falling out in 2012 as the victim prepared to divorce her husband, Lance Cpl. Cory Killgore, who was serving in Afghanistan.
Hernandez said she talked about the souring of their friendship with Perez and the others. She said they started referring to Killgore as "the disease" and "herpes" after Killgore started dating Hernandez's brother.
Perez and Maraglino "would say they could get rid of her but they wouldn't because they knew I would miss her," Hernandez testified, saying she thought they were joking.
Killgore was last seen with Perez.
Another friend of Killgore, Channy Tal, testified that on April 13 when Killgore would later go missing, Perez had stopped by Killgore's apartment and insisted she go on a dinner cruise with him that night.
Tal was in the apartment, helping Killgore pack because she was planning on moving back to Pennsylvania.
Tal said later that night she received a text message from Killgore's cellphone that read, "Help."
Tal said she spent the night frantically trying to reach her friend but was never able to talk to her.
Perez has said he and Killgore went their separate ways that night and he does not know what happened to her after that.
Killgore's nude body was found three days later in a ditch near Lake Skinner in Riverside County.
Authorities say Killgore was kidnapped and made an unwilling participant in bondage and torture before she was strangled.
Sheriff's detectives said they found "bondage-type sex apparatuses, toys and tools" in Maraglino's Fallbrook home.
Perez was arrested April 15 on suspicion of possessing a stolen assault rifle and was later charged with murder.
Lopez was arrested April 17 at a San Diego hotel where authorities said she was discovered with self-inflicted cuts.
Authorities also found a letter in which Lopez allegedly claimed she killed Killgore out of fear that the woman would come steal away Perez, whom she described as her "master."
Maraglino has given birth since her arrest.
The preliminary hearing is expected to last five days.
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