SAN DIEGO – A California man pleaded guilty Wednesday to killing his girlfriend in Panama, where her remains were discovered in a jungle two years after she vanished.
In his plea, Brian Brimager admitted to second-degree murder in federal court in San Diego, saying he stabbed 42-year-old Yvonne Lee Baldelli in the back and then dismembered her body with a machete and disposed of her remains on a Panamanian island, where the couple had been living for two months in 2011.
Prosecutors say after her death, Brimager withdrew money from Baldelli's account and sent emails on her laptop to make friends and family members think the California woman was traveling. A Panamanian citizen found her skeletal remains inside a backpack in 2013.
Brimager regrets what he did, defense attorney Devin Burstein said.
"He's accepted responsibility for his actions," Burstein said. "He's deeply sorry, and nobody should be judged solely on the worst mistake of their life. More facts and circumstances will come out at sentencing."
The 39-year-old former Marine faces up to life in prison at his May 25 sentencing hearing.
Before his arrest in 2013, Brimager had moved to the San Diego County and married the mother of his young child.
The defense had tried unsuccessfully to get the case dropped by saying Brimager could not be charged in the United States for a crime committed in a foreign country.