Closing arguments are slated to begin Thursday in the trial of a 32-year-old Marine lieutenant and martial arts expert accused of fatally beating a Murrieta man who was sleeping with the serviceman’s girlfriend, leading to a brutal encounter in the victim’s home.
Curtis Lee Krueger could face 25 years to life in state prison if convicted of murder and assault resulting in great bodily injury for the killing 54-year-old Henry Stange in 2018.
Following nearly two weeks of testimony, the prosecution and defense rested Tuesday, and Riverside County Superior Court Judge Kelly Hansen scheduled final statements for Thursday morning at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta.
Krueger is being held in lieu of $1 million bail at the Byrd Detention Center.
Krueger’s ex-girlfriend, 29-year-old Ashlie Nicole Stapp, pleaded guilty in July 2019 to being an accessory after the fact and was sentenced to 10 months in jail and three years felony probation.
According to a trial brief filed by Deputy District Attorney Dan DeLimon, Stange was a prescription drug-addicted divorcee who developed a relationship with Stapp after the two began using drugs together.
At the same time she was visiting and engaged in sexual relations with the victim, she was Krueger’s girlfriend, according to court papers.
The prosecution said Stange had been in a major car wreck that left him unable to work, resulting in financial hardships and the dependence on drugs, for which Stapp had a strong preference.
Krueger knew about the sex-for-drugs relationship and wanted it to end, but “Stapp wasn’t the committing type,” DeLimon wrote.
He described Krueger as “highly distrusting, totally obsessive, extremely controlling, with a violent temper.”
The martial arts instructor allegedly threatened Stange by text, warning him in January 2018 to stop seeing Stapp, and when the elder man disregarded the threat, Krueger “broke into Stange’s house and attacked him with a hammer,” the prosecution alleged.
“Stange sustained injuries to his head, but he survived,” DeLimon said. “Stange never reported the attack to police.”
The relationship between the victim and Stapp continued, and according to the brief, Krueger finally boiled over and, for the second time, drove to the victim’s house in the 24000 block of New Clay Street on the afternoon of May 24, 2018.
The prosecution alleged that Krueger forced his way into the residence and “unleashed a violent attack that left Henry with several sharp force injuries to his chest and neck, along with numerous blunt force injuries that fractured and collapsed his skull.”
The victim died at the scene.
According to DeLimon, Krueger recruited Stapp to help him clean up the crime scene and dismantle the home security surveillance system.
They then allegedly loaded Stange’s remains into the defendant’s pickup truck and drove to Joshua Tree National Park, where Krueger “buried Stange’s mutilated body in a shallow grave less than 10 feet from the road,” the brief stated.
Stange’s remains were located on June 2, 2018. Sheriff’s detectives and U.S. National Park Service rangers began an investigation that led back to the victim’s residence according to Murrieta police Lt. Mark Reid.
Krueger’s first arrest on suspicion of murder was on Aug. 29, 2018, when San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies stopped his vehicle near the south entrance to the Marine Corps’ Twentynine Palms Air-Ground Combat Center.
Stapp was taken into custody at Copper Mountain Community College in Joshua Tree that same day.
When prosecutors did not file charges against Krueger and Stapp within 48 hours, their window of opportunity closed based on a constitutional guarantee that individuals are entitled to a speedy arraignment after being jailed. Both were released.
Within three months, Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents and Murrieta police detectives procured additional evidence, mainly from court-authorized wire taps, that supported earlier findings indicating Krueger was the assailant, according to the prosecution.
Krueger was arrested a second time on Dec. 13, 2018, at Camp Pendleton, and Stapp was arrested five months later at her mother’s home in Canyon Lake.
Krueger, a 15-year Marine Corps veteran who started as an enlisted man, had been a communications officer for Combat Logistics Battalion 7, Combat Logistics Regiment 1 at Twentynine Palms, where he was stationed in June 2017.
Krueger is on inactive status pending the outcome of his trial.
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