By JULIE WATSON
FILE – This file image provided by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department shows Brittany Dawn Killgore, who was reported missing April 14, 2012, while her estranged husband was serving in Afghanistan. A preliminary hearing began Monday, March 11, 2013 for Marine Sgt. Louis Ray Perez, Jessica Lopez and Dorothy Maraglino on charges that they kidnapped Killgore, tortured her during sadomasochistic sex and killed her. The three have pleaded not guilty to murdering the 22-year-old. (AP Photo/San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, File)
VISTA, Calif. (AP) — A friend of a Marine’s wife testified Monday that two of the three suspects in the killing of the woman had said they could get rid of her, but the friend didn’t think they would do it.
Elizabeth Hernandez testified during a preliminary hearing in San Diego County that will determine if the suspects — another Marine and two women — stand trial in the case involving allegations of bondage and sadomasochism.
Hernandez said she and victim Brittany Killgore became acquainted with the defendants, Sgt. Louis Perez, Jessica Lopez and Dorothy Maraglino, in 2011.
Hernandez and Killgore knew the three were in a bondage ring but did not want to participate, according to the testimony.
Hernandez and Killgore had a falling out in 2012, and Hernandez said she talked about it with Perez and the others, who referred to Killgore as “the disease.”
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.
Perez, Lopez and Maraglino are charged in the kidnapping and torture of the 22-year-old Killgore during sadomasochistic sex and with killing her.
The preliminary hearing is expected to last for five days and determine if the case goes to trial.
The three defendants have pleaded not guilty. Maraglino has given birth since her arrest.
Another friend of Killgore testified that on the night she went missing, Killgore had agreed to go on a dinner cruise with Perez, and a plea for help was later sent on her cellphone.
Witness Channy Tal said Perez stopped by Killgore’s apartment that day and insisted she go on the cruise with him.
Tal was in the apartment, helping Killgore pack because she was planning on moving back to Pennsylvania.
Killgore had recently filed for divorce from her husband, Lance Cpl. Cory Killgore, who was deployed to Afghanistan at the time.
Killgore agreed to go on the cruise after calling Perez’s girlfriend — a pregnant woman named “Dee” — and getting her approval, Tal said.
Perez had promised Killgore in return that he would find five people who would help with the move, Tal said.
Still, Tal said, Killgore felt uncomfortable about going.
Tal lent her a purple evening gown for the formal dinner. Tal said she also got the phone numbers of Perez and his girlfriend and told Killgore she would give the police the numbers if she did not hear from Killgore.
Tal said she later received the one-word text message, “Help,” from Killgore’s phone.
Tal said she spent the rest of the evening sending her friend text messages asking if she was OK.
After texting, “Brittany, are you ok? I’m freaking out,” Tal said she got a message from Killgore’s phone saying “yes.” Tal testified that made her suspicious because her friend always would text “yeah” not “yes” in her messages.
Tal then sent a text telling Killgore to call.
Tal said she got a call from Killgore’s phone but only heard loud music and no one spoke. Tal texted her again to call but heard the same loud music and no one on the other end during the second call.
She never spoke to Killgore again.
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 the Fallbrook home where the defendants lived.
Killgore’s nude body was found three days later in a ditch near Lake Skinner in Riverside County.
Perez was arrested on April 15 on suspicion of possessing a stolen assault rifle and was later charged with murder.
Lopez was arrested on 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 steal away Perez, whom she described as her “master.”