Girlfriend Implicates Marine Lieutenant In Death Of Older Interloper

Jealousy and rage drove a Marine lieutenant stationed at the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Base to kill a man more than two decades his senior he believed was horning in on a woman variously described as the lieutenant’s wife and/or girlfriend, according to police investigators. It now appears that the woman who inspired the military man’s murderous fit of passion has now betrayed him to authorities, delineating in such exacting detail what led up to the murder, the murder itself and its aftermath that their relationship for which he was willing to go to such extreme lengths is now obliterated and he has no hope of avoiding a decades-long prison sentence.
Lieutenant Curtis Krueger’s bludgeoning of Henry Stange resulted in an arrest last summer that dovetailed with revelations about drug dealing activity at the Marine Corps installation, creating the widespread impression that there was some connection between the dual circumstances, both of which represented an unwelcome spate of publicity for the Navy, the Marine Corps and the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Base in particular. With the revelations of specifics about the Stange murder investigation, however, it now appears that the activity of a ring of traffickers functioning out of the Marine Corps Communication-Electronics School located on the base and the murder were unrelated coincidences, thought there is something to indicate that the suspected drug dealing activity may have come to light as a consequence of the investigation of Krueger.
On June 2, 2018, the partially decomposed remains of an adult male were found in a shallow grave in Joshua Tree National Park in San Bernardino County, near Big Horn Pass Road and Park Boulevard, about six miles south of Twentynine Palms, not too distant from the dividing line with Riverside County. In relatively short order the remains were identified as those of 54-year-old Henry Allen Stange, who had lived in the 24000 block of New Clay Street, near Kalmia Street in Murrietta. He had gone missing in late May.
Stange was a very active ham radio operator who broadcast at 147.435MHz using the call signs WA6RXZ and KG6EBF. He made a last transmission at 8 a.m. on May 24 and was never heard from again.
Stange had various and wide-ranging contacts with other radio operators. Like Stange, 1st. Lt. Curtis Krueger, a communications officer with Combat Logistics Battalion 7 at the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Base, had an interest in radioing. Krueger enlisted in the Marines in April 2005, when he was yet 17, becoming a private first class upon graduating from boot camp. He steadily moved up through the non-commissioned ranks, studied computer science programming at San Diego State University and compiled a 3.4 grade point average there while stationed at Camp Pendleton and then qualified to attend officer candidate school. In 2015, he graduated from the Marines’ officer training institution, earning in so doing his lieutenant’s bars. In June 2017 he was stationed at the Twentynine Palms base, where he was a leader of a communications team.
Krueger, now 31, made the acquaintance of Ashlie Stapp, now 27, a coed at Copper Mountain Community College in Joshua Tree. By early this year, Krueger and Stapp were cohabiting in a trailer park in Twentynine Palms, where nearby residents believed they were a married couple.
Stange’s interest in radios and expertise in the fabrication of custom ham radio antennas along with so-called repeaters that propagate and repropagate radio signals, as well as his activity in the ham radio community provided the basis of his interaction with Krueger, and by extension, with Stapp. There are photos and videos of Stange, Krueger and Stapp together at barbecue picnics and potlucks involving radio enthusiasts, both professional and amateur. Stange, who was divorced with two grown children, was something of a modern renaissance man. In addition to being an accomplished musician, he was actively involved in falconry, boating and sailing and freshwater sportsfishing. Stapp apparently became attracted to the older man. Krueger became convinced Stapp and Stange had initiated a physical relationship.
At some point in the summer, the suspicions of investigators with the Murrietta Police Department had settled on Krueger and Stange. They obtained warrants that allowed them to place taps on the phones and communication devices used by the pair and coordinated their investigation with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. By August 28, they had what they believed was probable cause to arrest both Krueger and Stapp for involvement in Stange’s murder. On August 29 Krueger and Stapp were arrested and transported to Riverside County, where both were booked at the Cois Byrd Detention Center in French Valley for murder and conspiracy. Stapp was subsequently transferred to the Riverside County Jail in Indio and Krueger to the Southwest Detention Center in Murrietta, where both were held in lieu of $1 million bail.
Krueger refused to waive his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination and made no statements to the detectives who sought to interrogate him. Stapp, however, elected to speak to the investigators and provided them with a host of statements implicating Krueger in the bludgeoning murder of Stange. Three days later, however, after an extensive review, the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office had concluded that Stapp’s statements were yet uncorroborated and that there was insufficient evidence against both Krueger and Stapp to proceed with a prosecution of either of them. They were released but not before investigators had used search warrants to seize the computers at the Marine Corps Base that Krueger had access to, including his cell phone; Stapp’s cell phone and computer; Krueger’s military-issued E-Tool, a communications device; a military-issued foldable shovel often used for digging combat fighting holes and filling sandbags, along with other items from Krueger’s car and residence.
Over the next three months, investigators conducted extensive interviews with people in their circle, including ham radio operators with whom both Krueger and Stange associated, as well as residents of the mobile home park where Krueger and Stapp were living.
Krueger was re-arrested on December 7, and charged with homicide, Penal Code Section 187 based on an affidavit for the arrest warrant prepared in November, granted on December 1 and filed with Riverside County Superior Court on December 6. He is in custody at the Cois M. Byrd Detention Center in French Valley, held in lieu of $1 million bail. He pleaded not guilty to the charge on December 19.
According to Murietta Police Department investigators, in a phone call on August 23, 2018, Krueger and Stapp spoke about Stange’s killing, which has been established as occurring on May 24. That day, Krueger made a 911 call to ask the sheriff’s department carry out a welfare check on Stapp, whom he characterized as mentally unstable. Cell tower connections with Krueger and Stapp’s phones show that both had driven to Stange’s home in Murrieta that day.
It was while there, in Stange’s garage, that Krueger beat Stange severely about the head, which led to his death, though he did not die immediately, as according to Stapp, when they were lifting Stange into the bed of Krueger’s truck, he was get breathing, gasping for air.
“Henry was killed in his garage by blunt force trauma to the head,” according to the arrest warrant affidavit. “Henry’s body was dragged from his garage and placed in a vehicle, which was parked in the driveway.”
Cell tower connections with their phones indicate Krueger and Stapp then drove to Diamond Valley Lake south of Hemet, apparently seeking a place to dispose of the body there before returning to Stange’s home and then going to Twentynine Palms. Ultimately Stange was left in a shallow grave that both of them dug in Joshua Tree.
Accessible records give no indication of Stapp having been rearrested, though the clear implication of the affidavit is that she is an accessory to murder. Her whereabouts are unknown.
-Mark Gutglueck

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