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California police look for foul play in case of Marine's missing wife

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - California police investigating the disappearance of the pregnant wife of a U.S. Marine said on Wednesday they were trying to determine whether she was a victim of foul play or left voluntarily, despite court documents showing they suspect she was murdered.

Erin Corwin, 19, was reported missing on June 28 by her husband, Marine Corporal Jonathan Corwin, after she failed to return from what she told him was a day trip to Joshua Tree National Park, near their home on the military base in nearby Twentynine Palms.

Her car was found two days later abandoned on a street in Twentynine Palms, a desert community 130 miles east of Los Angeles, next to footprints showing that she got into another vehicle.

"In a missing person case there's always that two-pronged investigation. We don't know if she's voluntarily missing and we also don't know if she's a victim of foul play," San Bernardino County Sheriff's spokeswoman Jodi Miller said.

"The investigation as of yesterday has been ongoing for three weeks and it continues," Miller said. "We've interviewed a lot of people - family, friends, acquaintances - and served search warrants as you're aware and the investigation continues."

Investigators have revealed little about the evidence in their search for Corwin, who was three months pregnant at the time she vanished.

But on Monday the Desert Sun newspaper published a search warrant affidavit which shows that detectives had questioned the couple's neighbor, Christopher Lee, and his wife, Nicole, each more than once during the investigation.

The affidavit published by the Sun says detectives believed Christopher Lee and Erin Corwin were having an extramarital affair at the time of her disappearance and that Lee could be the father of her unborn baby.

A friend of the Lees told detectives that Nicole Lee had confided to her that police missed something when they searched her home and would "never find the body," but she was worried that her husband did not have an alibi and could not keep his story straight, according to the affidavit.

It concludes by saying that police believe they have probable cause to suspect that a murder had been committed.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department has declined to discuss the documents published by the Sun.

According to the affidavit, Christopher Lee denied involvement in Erin Corwin's disappearance. He also told investigators that they had kissed but never had sexual intercourse.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Eric Beech)

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