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Judge in Vista upheld murder conviction of defendant in killing of young marine wife

Posted at 7:22 PM, Sep 12, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-12 22:22:13-04

Vista, CA (KGTV) - One of the three defendants convicted in the kidnapping, torture, and murder of a young marine wife in 2012 will not have her murder conviction vacated.

Jessica Lopez is one of three defendants serving a life sentence without parole in the murder of Brittany Killgore.

The 22-year-old was the wife of a Camp Pendleton-based marine on deployment. She had just filed for divorce and was preparing to move back to Pennsylvania to be with her family when she disappeared after agreeing to go on a harbor cruise with Louis Perez.

Lopez tried to have her murder conviction vacated based on a new California law that went into effect in 2019.

The law (SB1437) states, among other things, that accomplices who were not the actual killers or did not play a significant role in a killing would no longer face a felony murder charge.

Tuesday, a judge ruled the murder conviction stands.

"He also had an understanding of the lifestyle between these participants, the BDSM lifestyle and the violence that was inflicted in the home, and he was able to use that evidence to make a conclusion that she was not only a major participant, but she also had a reckless disregard for human life," said San Diego Chief Deputy District Attorney Patrick Espinoza.

Prosecutors said Lopez was the self-proclaimed sex slave of Louis Perez and his girlfriend Dorothy Maraglino. The three were convicted of murdering Killgore in a bizarre sex ritual at a Fallbrook home. Killgore had agreed to go on a harbor cruise with Perez.

Days later, her body was found in Riverside County.

Prosecutors said Lopez wrote a confession letter and then tried to kill herself.

Last week, Lopez testified the confession was forced and that she was under the control of her so-called master.

"A jury found she was guilty of kidnapping and torture, and to reach a conclusion that she's guilty of those two crimes, the victim would've had to be alive at the time. Miss Lopez participated directly or as an aider and abettor," said Espinoza.

Killgore's parents, who live out of state, watched Tuesday's hearing via Zoom. They were in court last week during the testimony.

The retroactive law is a challenge for prosecutors and victims' families.

"They have enormous impact on the family because the family thought there was closure at one point in time, and this rips off the band-aids to old wounds and creates a lot of uncertainty. Is the judge going to grant that petition or not?"

Maraglino has also petitioned to have her murder conviction vacated under the new law. A court date has not been set.