A 32-year-old U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant and martial arts expert who fatally pummeled a Murrieta man for sleeping with the serviceman’s girlfriend was convicted Thursday of first-degree murder.
Jurors deliberated over three days before finding Curtis Lee Krueger guilty of the 2018 killing of 54-year-old Henry Stange, and also convicting him of assault resulting in great bodily injury. He is expected to be sentenced to 25 years to life in state prison.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Kelly Hansen scheduled the sentencing hearing for Oct. 16 at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta.
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 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 time she was visiting and engaged in sexual relations with the victim, she was also Krueger’s girlfriend, according to the prosecution.
Stange had been in a major car wreck that left him unable to work, resulting in financial hardships and dependence on painkillers, for which Stapp had a strong preference, according to DeLimon.
Krueger knew about the sex-for-drugs relationship and wanted it to end, but “Stapp wasn’t the committing type,” the prosecutor wrote in a trial brief in which he described Krueger as “highly distrusting, totally obsessive, extremely controlling, with a violent temper.”
The martial arts instructor 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 prosecutor said.
“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 drove to the victim’s house in the 24000 block of New Clay Street on the afternoon of May 24, 2018.
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,” according to DeLimon.
According to DeLimon, Krueger recruited Stapp to help him clean up the crime scene and dismantle the home security surveillance system. They then loaded Stange’s remains into the defendant’s pickup truck and drove to Joshua Tree National Park, where Krueger buried Stange in a shallow grave less than 10 feet from the road.
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.
Within three months, Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents and Murrieta police detectives procured evidence, mainly from court-authorized wire taps, that supported findings indicating Krueger was the assailant, according to the prosecution.
He was arrested on Dec. 13, 2018, at Camp Pendleton, and Stapp was arrested 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 at Twentynine Palms, where he was stationed in June 2017.
He is on inactive status pending sentencing.