Louis Ray Perez’s dress shirt stretched noticeably over his pudgy mid-section as he walked to the witness box in October 2015. Perez, 48, has gained weight since April 2012, when he was first brought into San Diego’s North County courthouse on murder charges. Back then he looked the part of a Marine staff sergeant — lean and tanned. At that time, the accused man stood fully upright and looked hyper-alert, even defiant.
But during trial he made a very different appearance. Seated between the jury and the judge, the accused man hunkered down in the box and bent forward. He wore black-rimmed glasses on a pouty face, and his head seemed to blend into his rounded shoulders. During the prior year, when he was brought into court every month or so for pre-trial hearings, Perez’s close-cropped hair had gradually turned from black to gray-tipped.
The fantasies of Master Ivan
When the prosecutor got his turn, Perez admitted that he had communicated to many persons his fantasy of abducting a female. During the previous weeks of trial, multiple witnesses testified that they heard him talk about this fantasy. And one witness described her own experience of kidnap and bondage “play” with Master Ivan — the name that Perez preferred with his recreational women.
Perez admitted under oath that he acted out his kidnap fantasy with “several women.” But, he explained, “Those were choreographed events where the person was aware that she was going to be kidnapped and taken somewhere.” The hunched-over defendant revealed specific details of his bondage lifestyle as he responded to prosecutor Patrick Espinoza’s questions. The jury of nine women and three men listened carefully.
Perez admitted that he created and kept a video in which he was seen sadistically whipping a woman who could be heard saying “no.” Perez told the court that it was all to fulfill the woman’s fanstasies. “Yes,” he admitted, he enjoyed inflicting pain — but only on women who enjoyed receiving it. He met such women on the internet, where he’d created multiple profiles using names such as Mister Dilligaf. That last name is an acronym for “does it look like I give a fuck?” though in the witness box Perez denied being aware of that.
The night she went missing
Perez said that when he picked up Brittany Killgore, the 22-year-old wife of a deployed Marine, at her apartment that Friday night, at about 7:30 p.m. on April 13, 2012, he knew the harbor cruise he had promised her was long gone. The boat had already left the dock; plus, it was more than an hour’s drive from Fallbrook to San Diego Bay. Perez said he revealed this to Brittany after she got into his car, and then he offered her choices of what to do instead, such as go to a casino or to a club in downtown San Diego. Then Perez said he got the idea to go pick up a copy of the Reader to find out what else they could do instead. And he knew where he could get one — at the nearby home of his his longtime lover, Dorothy Maraglino.
It was less than a mile from Killgore’s apartment at 519 Ammunition Road to the house at 317 East Fallbrook Street. The home was owned by Perez’s bondage playmate, and later co-defendant, Dorothy Maraglino, now 40, who lived in her home with the other defendant in the murder case, Jessica Lynn Lopez, now 28. Details of the sado-masochistic lifestyle of the strange threesome were revealed during five weeks of trial. Their attorneys unabashedly defended their pain “play” as their own choices. In the arrangement, Perez styled himself as dominant Master Ivan, and Maraglino positioned herself as Mistress Dee, which was superior to her pet slave Jessica Lynn Lopez. At the bottom of the hierarchy, Lopez wore a dog collar and ate food from a dog dish customized with her name on it. Photo evidence of these humiliations, and much worse, appeared in court.
Perez testified that when he took Killgore into the house on East Fallbrook Street that Friday night, there was no one else there. Killgore, he said, told him that she wanted to stay there to talk to the two women who lived there. Perez claimed he left Brittany there alone in the home, and he went driving around the neighborhood for awhile.
The stun baton
But the prosecutor told the jury that evidence showed Perez used a stun baton on Killgore soon after she got into his car. The prosecutor used a generic drawing of a face profile to show where two sets of paired marks were found on the left side of Killgore’s face. It would have been too much to expect jurors to look at photos of her actual face. The body was found four days after she disappeared. The day after she went missing, which was the same day Killgore’s friends contacted authorities, a stun baton was discovered inside Louis Perez’s car. The foot-long black baton was produced as evidence in court, encased in clear plastic so jurors could see the two metal prongs on one end. Killgore’s DNA was on the prongs and Perez’s DNA was on the handle. The prosecutor questioned Perez about the stun baton in his car, and Perez said he had it in his car because he intended “to get rid of it.”
Back at the house
In Perez’s version of that night’s events, he went back to the house some minutes later and found Lopez sitting in a downstairs room with Killgore’s body. Perez said he saw Lopez holding a knife, and she appeared to be in a dazed state. Perez said he rushed upstairs and saw that his pregnant lover Maraglino was asleep in her own bedroom, before he inexplicably left the house again. He said he again drove around Fallbrook for awhile.
Surveillance video shows Perez when he first visited Killgore at her apartment that Friday afternoon and when he returned later to pick her up. Maraglino and Lopez were also recorded on video that night; they were shopping for groceries at a nearby Albertsons grocery store about the same time that Perez picked up Killgore.
Attorneys for Perez and Maraglino put the blame for the killing on Lopez. The pet slave Lopez was portrayed as a mentally unbalanced woman who showed bursts of temper. Their attorneys asserted Perez and Maraglino as only guilty of trying to cover up the crime to protect their friend Lopez.
The life of a slave
Defense attorney Sloan Ostbye described her client, Lopez, as a long-suffering young woman who put up with unspeakable abuse because she desperately wanted to belong somewhere. Lopez had attempted suicide at least twice in her life, and she had just turned 25 years old days before she was arrested.
Four days after Killgore went missing, investigators found Lopez alone in a hotel room with deep slashes on her neck and arms. With her they found a seven-page handwritten letter telling officers where to look for Killgore’s body. But Lopez survived her self-inflicted wounds, and her attorney later insisted that the incriminating letter had been dictated to her by the dominatrix Dorothy Maraglino. Attorney Ostbye characterized the letter as a fake confession, designed to be found with a conveniently dead Lopez, and expressly constructed to exonerate the survivors, Perez and Maraglino.
Her attorney portrayed Lopez as the most sympathetic of all the strange people who had come and gone from the household on East Fallbrook Street.
There was a parade of females who had passed through that house and survived to testify in court. Each one described staying for a while, as a roommate or a renter. Some said they made a try at being a submissive while living there; their signed slave contracts were shown as evidence. It appeared that Master Ivan and Mistress Dee were always looking for one more submissive. Attorneys claimed that Maraglino had a written list of places to hunt for promising contenders — for example, at AA meetings. According to testimony, Lopez was the longest-running slave that Maraglino ever had.
Lopez was the only person in the home who was continuously employed, according to her attorney. At times, she worked two jobs simultaneously. Lopez was said to be a certified nursing assistant.
Maraglino was a dominatrix who kept close control over what went on in her home, attorneys said. A 16-page “house manual” authored by Maraglino was produced as evidence. Those pages described in detail things that were both required and forbidden for residents, including which way the end shall hang from the toilet-paper roll. Maraglino reportedly had worked for Verizon until she had saved up enough money for a down payment on the home.
An innocent meeting
Testimony established that the trio met Killgore when she went to the east Fallbrook Street house with a friend named Liz. The owner of the home, Maraglino, met Liz in 2011 when the latter answered an advertisement and bought a used fertility monitor from her. Liz and Killgore lived in the same apartment complex and spent a lot of time together; Killgore could not drive and Liz often took her pal with her when she went on errands.
To dump the body
The letter found in the hotel room with Lopez, four days after Killgore disappeared, described how the young woman was killed. An exerpt:
“You’ll also find a taser mark and several ligature marks around her scrawny little neck as the bitch just wouldn’t die. You’ll find plenty of mutilation marks & bruises of where I knocked her down & held her still.” And “I wrapped the rope around her neck after burying her face in the pillow & started to strangle her. She barely moved but she just wouldn’t die, the miserable whore. I had to keep releasing & readjusting even wrapping the rope around my foot for leverage.”
San Diego County medical examiner Dr. Craig Nelson testified that he found fractures in the neck of the deceased. He declared her cause of death as “ligature strangulation.”
In the witness box during his trial, Perez said that when he drove 25 miles north to dump the body near Riverside County’s Lake Skinner, his co-defendant Lopez helped him by following in another car. Two cell phones, belonging to Perez and Lopez, were documented to be pinging off towers in that area about eight hours after Killgore got into Perez’s car. But according to the attorney for Lopez, it was Master Ivan who took Lopez’s cell phone with him on his errand. Defense attorney Ostbye found many faults with Perez’s description of his activities that night, and she put the blame for the killing completely on Perez.
Prosecutor Patrick Espinoza organized more than 300 items of evidence for trial. The three defendants were charged with the same five crimes: conspiracy, kidnap, torture, attempted sexual battery, and murder. The prosecutor told the jury that he did not have to prove which of the three defendants actually did the killing, because of “the concept of group liability.”
The jury deliberated three full days before they declared Perez and Maraglino guilty of all five crimes, and Lopez guilt of four. She was not guilty of conspiracy to kidnap, because she was busy at work while that plot was being constructed .
Perez, Lopez, and Maraglino will be sentenced by the same judge who heard the trial, Michael Kirkman, on November 19 in the North County Superior Courthouse.