The Joshua Tree Tortoise Telegraph
By Steve Brown – March 14, 2017
If you’re out east of Wonder Valley searching for wildflowers and the elusive Desert Lily, and you happen to wander just south of Route 62 near Ironage Road, you may stumble upon a modest memorial that is both beautiful, and sad. A small concrete bench proclaims you have arrived at Erin’s Garden, on the top of a lonely hi-desert hillock, with a rock circle laid out to the south.
For those of us who lived here during the desperate search to find missing 19 year-old, Erin Corwin, we don’t need a reminder as to why this place is sacred. Erin was young – far too young – to have met the fate she was dealt, alone, out here east of Twentynine Palms. The wife of a Marine stationed at the Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Erin was reportedly having an affair with another Marine, Corporal (former) Christopher Lee, and became pregnant, possibly with his child.
In 2014, Lee murdered Erin by strangling her, then he threw her body down a 140-foot vertical mine shaft out in the hills near here. He probably thought that was that.
It took about two months of extremely dedicated searching before she was found. Groups such as the Desert Dog Troglodytes, the Desert Dog Stomp Club, the Southern California Grotto, and The San Diego Grotto, who explore caverns and mines (very carefully – something you should probably not consider), and a host of search and rescue crews, all participated in the search for Erin (and our thanks to all who selflessly took to the back roads to find this young woman). Later, they helped establish this memorial.
The search for Erin covered 300 square miles, including more than 100 mine shafts in the hi-desert. Around 5,000 volunteer hours were spent searching for her. Mine shafts were of interest reportedly due to Lee’s Internet search history. He was arrested in Anchorage, Alaska, and found guilty of murder in November, 2016.
“Though we were praying for a different outcome, we are relieved to have this part of the investigation behind us and to be able to begin mourning the loss of our sweet girl. Please continue to pray for our family and that justice will be found for Erin.”
– a family post from the Locate Erin Facebook page
A 2013 profile photo of Erin Corwin from her Facebook page.
As you travel this lonely but beautiful stretch of Route 62, take a moment to look to the south as you pass Ironage Road, and say a prayer for Erin Corwin. And if you have time, stop here and look for this touching garden, where even wildflowers can’t mask the sorrow that inspired its creation.
A small wood plaque with an engraved horse lies under the bench, partially protected from the sun. It says, “And with your final heartbeat, kiss the world goodbye. Then go in peace and laugh on Glory’s side.”
Wherever you may be, Erin Corwin, we hope you’re laughing. It’s still difficult on this side of Glory, here in this world.
Posted in accord with 17 U.S. Code § 107 – Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use
Photos from The Joshua Tree Tortoise Telegraph website