The text only said ‘Help’, but it was all Brittany could write in her final moments. It was a desperate plea from a young woman who knew she was in danger – but it wasn’t enough to save her. Four days later, her abused and battered body was found dumped in a ditch.
Brittany had just made the decision to divorce her husband, who lived on the other side of the world. She and lance corporal Cory had been married for two years when they filed for divorce in April 2002. Marine Cory had been deployed to Afghanistan while Brittany, 22, was back at their home in Fallbrook, California, near Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base.
With her marriage coming to an end, Brittany started packing to move back home to her family in Missouri. Facing a new life alone, she sent a text to a friend asking for some help with the move.
Brittany had met Marine staff sergeant Louis Ray Perez by chance when she was with a friend. He’d been a Marine for 16 years – and was someone Brittany thought she could trust.
When she asked if Louis knew anyone who could help with the move he replied, ‘Party with me tonight and you’ll have five guys there in the morning.’ At first she declined his invite to a dinner cruise, but then changed her mind, deciding that she knew him well enough and that she needed the help.
On April 13, Brittany borrowed a purple evening gown from a friend and said she was heading to downtown San Diego. She was never seen again.
The next day, a friend reported Brittany missing. They said they’d received the text from Brittany’s phone at around 8pm that read, ‘Help’. When the friend texted her back, ‘R U okay?’ the return message read, ‘Yes I love this party.’ It set alarm bells ringing as Brittany always used the word ‘yeah’.
A homeless man found Brittany’s phone in a doorway and terrified loved ones posted missing flyers around town.
Police called Louis in for questioning. He had no criminal record and turned up without resistance. He said he’d dropped Brittany in front of a club while he looked for somewhere to park. And that when he returned, Brittany was gone. After looking for 30 minutes, he returned home.
Louis lived with his pregnant girlfriend Dorothy Grace Marie Maraglino, 36, and her friend, Jessica Lynn Lopez, 25 – but as police would soon discover, there was far more to the trio’s relationship.
Police searched Louis’ car. It was muddy and so were his boots. They found a plastic bag containing blood-stained blue latex gloves, a stun gun with a human hair on it, and a stolen assault rifle. Later it was revealed that the DNA on the gloves and gun matched Brittany’s.
Louis was arrested for the theft of the rifle and named a ‘person of interest’ in the disappearance of Brittany. He was held on $500,000 bail.
Texts sent from Louis’ mobile to Brittany’s phone suggested he was concerned about her the night she went missing. ‘Your friends are calling me worried’ read one. Later he sent, ‘Now I am worried too.’ But it was all an act.
Police searched Louis’ home and the truth began to surface. One room was set up as a sex dungeon, full of equipment including handcuffs, sex toys, and shackles. Dorothy and Jessica explained they were both in a bizarre relationship with Louis – he was their master, Dorothy was the mistress and Jessica was the slave.
The next day, Jessica was found in a hotel with superficial self-inflicted knife wounds to her wrists. She’d written a seven-page confession where she admitted to strangling Brittany because she was worried Louis was attracted to her.
Jessica claimed she’d tried to chop up the body before dumping it near Lake Skinner and that she’d acted alone.
That afternoon, police found Brittany’s naked remains on the roadside near Lake Skinner. An examination revealed she’d been strangled, and there were cuts on one leg down to the bone and one on her wrist in a failed attempt to dismember her with a saw.
Jessica was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. But investigators didn’t believe Jessica was solely responsible. She was the slave in the sex group – often made to act like a dog on a lead. Had she simply taken the blame? Police charged Louis and Dorothy, who was pregnant at the time (and later gave birth to a baby boy), with murder as well. All three were held on a $3 million dollar bond.
Further investigation revealed the sex trio openly discussed their lifestyle with people. Louis was their master; Dorothy ran the house and would dominate Louis in sex games. Louis spoke online about his violent fantasies.
It’s thought they approached Brittany about joining in with their sex games and she’d refused. Her DNA was found in the dungeon – had they ignored her pleas and forced her to take part against her will in a sadomasochistic thrill kill? The graphic trial in 2015 was avidly followed by the public. All three pleaded not guilty to conspiracy, kidnapping, and murder.
The prosecution said Brittany had been kidnapped and forced as an unwilling participant in a sexual bondage and torture session, before she was strangled and dumped in the ditch. There were handcuff marks on her wrists and the force used implied it wasn’t consensual.
A lot of evidence taken from the trio’s home. There was nylon rope with Brittany’s hair on it, duct tape, saws, and a list of ‘slave rules’ with a ‘slave contract’ which showed their bizarre set-up.
Prosecutors insisted all three were at the house and the jury were told of Brittany’s heart-breaking text for help.
Dorothy’s lawyer insisted she had left behind her sexual behavior when she fell pregnant – and that her only crime was lying to save the people she loved.
Louis’ lawyer blamed Jessica. It was claimed Louis had dropped Brittany off at the house and when he returned she was dead. His only crime was covering it up while Jessica’s lawyer said the ‘slave’ was simply a scapegoat.
In October, the jury decided all three had taken part in Brittany’s death. They were found guilty of murder, kidnapping, torture and sexual battery.
In November, Louis Perez and Dorothy Maraglino were sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole. Jessica Lopez was also sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole on January 8, 2016.
Brittany’s mother, Michelle Wrest, said, ‘Our daughter was a beautiful young woman, inside and out. And unfortunately she ran across people who were monsters and took her life. She is going to be missed for the rest of our lives.’
It was a tragic and sickening end for a woman who had innocently asked for help moving home – and when she begged for help in her final moments, it never came. The murderers Sadomasochistic trio Louis, Jessica and Dorothy killed Brittany for fun.