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Woman arrested in connection with bludgeoning death of Murrieta man

 

Last updated 4/19/2019 at 8:51pm

Murrieta Police Department

First Lt. Curtis Lee Krueger of Twentynine Palms, left, was arrested back in January, and Nicole Ashlie Stapp, 27, of Joshua Tree, was arrested on Wednesday in connection with the murder of a Murrieta man in 2018.

MURRIETA - A 28-year-old woman was arrested again in connection with the bludgeoning death of a Murrieta man nearly a year ago that may have stemmed from a love triangle, police said on Friday, April 19.

Ashlie Nicole Stapp, of Joshua Tree, was taken into custody just before midnight on Wednesday, Murrietta police Sgt. Spencer Parker said, ending months of speculation as to whether she would be re-arrested in the case after her boyfriend Marine Corps 1st Lt. Curtis Lee Krueger, 30, of Twentynine Palms was charged with killing Henry Stange, 54, in December. He has pleaded not guilty.

Police said Stapp was arrested on suspicion of being an accessory after the fact of murder.

Krueger and Stapp were initially arrested in August but were released from custody, with a statement from the District Attorney's Office saying that the case remained "under review.''

According to Murrieta police Lt. Mark Reid, Stange's remains were located on June 2 in a shallow grave on the Riverside County side of Joshua Tree National Park.

Sheriff's detectives and U.S. National Park Service rangers began an investigation that led back to the victim's residence in the 24000 block of New Clay Street, near Kalmia Street, where Murrieta police conducted a search four days later and found obvious signs that a crime had occurred, Reid said.

Investigators believe Krueger beat Stange to near-death in Stange's garage, according to court filings.

According to the records, Stapp confessed to helping bury the body.

The cause of death was listed only as homicidal violence. There was no word on a possible motive, and investigators would not say how Krueger was identified as a suspect.

However a December arrest warrant says Stange "was dating'' Stapp and also says Stapp was "currently dating and living with her boyfriend, Curtis Krueger.'' It does not say if she had been dating both men simultaneously.

Krueger's first arrest was on Aug. 29, 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 within 48 hours, their window of opportunity closed based on a constitutional guarantee that suspects be entitled to a speedy arraignment after being jailed.

According to Reid, on Dec. 7, Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents and Murrieta police detectives "recovered additional evidence which corroborated already established case factors.''

Reid said the corroborating evidence -- the nature of which wasn't disclosed -- proved decisive in persuading the District Attorney's Office to move forward on the case, culminating in Krueger's second arrest on Dec. 13 at Camp Pendleton.

Marine Lt. Adam Miller, spokesman for the Twentynine Palms public affairs unit, told City News Service in August that Krueger enlisted in April 2005, beginning his career as a private. He continued up through the non-commissioned ranks until he qualified for officer candidate school. He earned his lieutenant's bars in 2015.

Krueger has been a communications officer assigned to Combat Logistics Battalion 7, Combat Logistics Regiment 1 at Twentynine Palms, where he's been stationed since June 2017, Miller said.

Jail records show Stapp was arrested Wednesday on Widgeon Place in Canyon Lake and was being held at the Indio Jail in lieu of $500,000 bail.

Neither Krueger nor Stapp has documented prior felony convictions.

 

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