Unsealed indictment accuses man in disappearance of Yvonne Baldelli

SAN DIEGO - A retired local Marine was arrested Thursday morning in connection with the disappearance and possible death of his former girlfriend in 2011.

Click here to view the federal indictment

Brian Brimager was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of obstruction of justice and making false statements.

Yvonne Baldelli, 42, and Brimager moved to Panama in September 2011. She was last seen on Nov. 26, 2011, leaving a restaurant in Bocas del Toro with Brimager.

The indictment, which was unsealed Thursday, accuses Brimager of killing Baldelli and then sending fake emails -- as Baldelli -- after her disappearance.

Deputy Chief U.S. Attorney Hamilton Arendsen referred to the indictment document, saying, "Mr. Brimager killed Miss Baldelli and disposed of her body in an unknown location."

According to the indictment, Brimager allegedly "created a cover story to explain her whereabouts ..." and "… impersonated Baldelli over email in an attempt to trick her friends and family into believing she was still alive, thereby obstructing, influencing and impeding investigation into her disappearance and suspected death."

Arendsen said, "He destroyed evidence, including a blood-stained mattress … he made withdrawals from Miss Baldelli's bank account on two separate occasions to make it appear as though she were still alive."

The U.S. Attorney has not charged Brimager with murder, but he faces 10 counts of obstruction of justice, carrying penalties of 20 years each upon conviction, and one count of making a false statement to a federal officer, which could bring five more years.

Baldelli's body has never been found.

Lauren Beyer, Baldelli's niece, said, "When we searched for her, we went to this exact spot where this picture was taken and unfortunately we were too late, but we hope it's not too late to find answers to where she is."

Younger sister Michelle Faust told reporters, "Everyone who had met them both told us they found him creepy and he beat her in public and he gave her big black eyes and bruises all over her body."

"Miss Baldelli was killed in Panama, not the U.S. We are working with Panamanian authorities on the case, but it is an ongoing investigation," Arendsen said.

Thursday was the first time Baldelli's relatives had seen Brimager in almost two years.

Faust called the experience "nauseating."

Beyer said, "It was just very shocking to me, very painful."

Brimager returns to U.S. District Court Friday for a detention hearing.  

The prosecution will ask that no bail be set, calling Brimager a flight risk and a danger to the community.  

Defense attorney Brad Patton will argue against that, however.

On a Facebook page dedicated to finding Baldelli, her family issued the following statement:

"Yvonne Baldelli is our beloved daughter, sister, aunt, cousin, and friend. Yvonne disappeared November 26, 2011 with her two dogs on Isla Carenero, Bocas del Toro, Panama. For more than a year and a half, our family has been begging for the authorities and the public internationally -- in Panama, the United States, and Costa Rica-- to help us find her and bring her home. Authorities in Panama upgraded the case to a homicide investigation on May 18, 2012. We sorely miss Yvonne's melodious laugh, contagious smile, and her kind heart.

The last person seen with Yvonne was Brian Brimager. He has in no way helped our family in locating Yvonne since her disappearance in 2011. Today, he was arrested by U.S. authorities and is in federal custody in San Diego, California on charges of obstruction of justice and lying to a federal officer.

We thank U.S. and Panamanian authorities for continuing the investigation and following every lead in Yvonne's case. As a family, we have been cooperating with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Prosecutor's Office, the State Department, and the Panamanian National Police. Anyone with any information about Yvonne's disappearance is encouraged to step forward and continue to cooperate with police.

Yvonne did not deserve to be ripped from our family. We will never recover from her absence. We are confident in the U.S. government's case against Brimager. As a family, we know this process is far from over. At this point, we pray that justice is served for Yvonne."

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