SAN DIEGO (AP) – A California man was sentenced to 26 years in prison Wednesday for killing his girlfriend in Panama, dismembering her body with a machete and disposing of her remains in the jungle.
Brian Brimager had pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, saying he stabbed 42-year-old Yvonne Lee Baldelli in the back before disposing of her remains on a Panamanian island where the couple lived for two months in 2011.
Just hours after killing Baldelli, the ex-Marine, formerly based at Camp Pendleton north of San Diego, sent an email to a friend, saying: "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!"
He later joked on a social media post that he had a machete for sale that had only been used once to dismember someone and was almost like new, according to the prosecution.
Brimager withdrew money from Baldelli's account after her death and sent emails on her laptop to make friends and family members think the Orange County woman was still traveling, according to court documents. He also admitted to killing her two dogs and disposing of a blood-stained mattress, clothing and jewelry.
A Panamanian citizen found her skeletal remains inside a backpack in 2013.
During the hearing, Brimager, 40, faced her family and said he was sorry.
Baldelli's sister, Michelle Faust, told the court: "Today we got an apology – a hollow last-minute attempt to save himself. Last night we talked about forgiveness. But forgiveness is for those who repent, not for those who cover their crimes, not for those who confess only when their back's against the wall."
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey T. Miller said he handed down 26 years because the crime was so horrific.
"This murder was particularly cruel and depraved," he said. "The lengths Mr. Brimager went to avoid detection were particularly brazen and ultimately shattering to the Bardelli family. I dare say they will never recover. A day may never go by without them thinking of Ms. Baldelli's murder and the images seared into their psyches."
Prosecutors told the court that witnesses in Panama saw Brimager beating, punching, choking and threatening to kill Baldelli numerous times. The evidence showed that he broke her teeth and nose and stabbed her multiple times before dragging her to the shower, where he dismembered her body, according to court documents.
He then put her remains in a military-style duffel bag and garbage bags, hiked more than a mile on the island in the jungle and threw them down an embankment, according to the investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Conover said Brimager killed Baldelli because she discovered that he had a girlfriend and daughter in San Diego. After he returned from Panama, Brimager married his girlfriend in San Diego, Conover said.