Marine gets prison for murdering girlfriend, hiding body parts in jungle
SAN DIEGO (KSWB)– A retired Camp Pendleton Marine was sentenced Wednesday after pleading guilty to stabbing his girlfriend to death in Panama, dismembering her body and hiding her remains in a remote jungle area.
Brian Karl Brimager, 40, was sentenced to 26 years in federal prison also ordered to pay $10K restitution in the death of Yvonne Baldelli, who's believed to have been killed on or around Nov. 27, 2011.
Just a few hours after murdering his girlfriend in Panama and chopping up her body with a machete, Brimager sent an email to a friend, a statement released by US Attorney Laura Duffy said.
"Hey bro, whatcha up to? I got stories for days. I'm living on an island off the coast of panama loving life and living semper free!!!!!!" the email stated.
A few days later, after he'd disposed of Yvonne Baldelli's body in the Panamanian jungle, Brimager accessed her bank account and used the money to buy rounds of drinks for female friends at a bar. "Thanks Vonnie," he announced, as he raised his glass in a toast, the attorney said.
After returning to the United States, Brimager received an email from another friend who told him to say hello to Baldelli. In his reply, Brimager wrote that he'd "ditched the bitch." In a social media post about the sale of the machete he used to sever Baldelli's limbs, Brimager joked: "I only dismembered one stripper with it – it's hardly used," according to the attorney.
Photos of Brimager and Baldelli together:
When it came to the sentencing Wednesday, the judge explained why he did not give Brimager the maximum prison term.
"No matter how heinous the crime, this is a man who has served his country for seven years - going on numerous tours including Iraq, Fallujah where he fought for his country," the judge said. "He also has a minimum criminal record."
"You also have to look at the nature of their relationship... it was a stormy, tumultuous relationship, marked by mutual domestic violence," the judge said. "It was dysfunctional, fueled by excessive consumption of drugs and alcohol."
During the hearing, nine members of Baldelli's family, including her parents, sister, nieces and closest friends, told the court how they have suffered emotionally and physically because of the loss, the way in which she was killed, and the torture of not knowing her whereabouts.
Brimager apologized to family and friends of Baldelli during the sentencing.
"Nothing I can say will relieve the pain and loss that I have caused you...I know you will find closure today," Brimager said. "I am so sorry for taking your daughter, your sister, your aunt, there's not a day that goes by I wish I could give her back to you."
"I am guilty of a horrible crime, a crime that stands in stark contrast of my character. The crime is the epitome of violence, my service and character show I am not a violent person."
Yvonne's family, friends and church members appeared in court to support each other. Her mother Emma said Yvonne was a beautiful, loving daughter.
"Brian, your life would have been easier if you would have just sent her home instead of murdering her," Emma said. "I will never forgive you for what you did. You will have to answer to a higher authority."
"Yvonne's life was taken by a man who neither had values or respects life," close family friend Annette Garcia said. "Beaten her stabbed her, murdered her, chopped her up into pieces and discarded her like trash. After she was dead, he killed her dog, stole her money and celebrated her death."
"It was a hollow apology as far as I'm concerned," said "When you lose a child, you have an empty spot in our heart."
After the killing, Brimager obstructed the investigation into Baldelli's murder by disposing of evidence, including a blood-stained mattress, her dog, and clothes and jewelry, according to his plea agreement.
Brimager also sent fake emails from Baldelli's account to her friends and family after her death, in which he pretended to be her, and withdrew money from her bank account in Costa Rica and made false statements to a federal agent investigating her disappearance to make it appear as though she was still alive, the plea agreement states.
Brimager and Baldelli moved together from Los Angeles to the archipelago of Bocas del Toro, Panama, in September 2011, and rented a room in a five- unit hostel on Isla Carenero, a small island near Bocas reachable only by boat.
Almost immediately upon arrival, Brimager started emailing another girlfriend -- the mother of his young daughter -- and discussed plans to move back to California to live with the woman and help raise their daughter, according to a federal indictment. The emails did not mention Baldelli.
At the same time he was emailing the other girlfriend, Brimager began physically abusing Baldelli, causing injuries that included bruising on her arms and around her eyes, according to court papers.
After murdering the victim, Brimager dismembered Baldelli's body and disposed of the parts in a remote jungle area on Isla Carenero, court documents state.
Within hours of killing Baldelli and prior to dumping the mattress in the ocean, Brimager conducted two Internet searches on her computer, one for "washing mattress'' and a second for "washing mattress blood stain,'' the indictment says.
Baldelli's skeletal remains were found in the jungle almost two years later.