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Tuesday, September 17 2019 @ 08:46 pm EDT

Vista man accused of killing girlfriend in Panama appears in court

Expat Tales By Marcella Lee, Anchor/Reporter SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - A federal court hearing for a Vista man accused of murder took place Wednesday in downtown San Diego.

Investigators say Brian Brimager dismembered his girlfriend Yvonne Baldelli's body in Panama, where they were living in 2011, then concocted an elaborate scheme to cover up her death.

Brimager was in court to discuss the health of a key witness in the case – Yvonne's sister Michelle Valenzuela.

"My mom has been such a champion for Yvonne, she loved her little sister so much," daughter Lauren Beyer said.

Beyer's mother Michelle is battling stage IV breast cancer, which has spread to her bones, so prosecutors are requesting to depose her.

"We want her deposition taken so no matter what happens, she is able to tell her testimony whenever the trial begins," Beyer said.

Prosecutors allege Brimager sent emails to Yvonne's family members, posing as Yvonne, so they would believe she was still alive.

"She was one of the main people that he was in contact with when he was pretending to be my aunt Yvonne, and so it's very important that my mom is able to tell both the communications and his behavior towards her and the family during that whole time when we were looking for her," Beyer said.

Yvonne's family traveled to Panama to find her, after sensing something just wasn't right. Then in 2013, investigators in Panama discovered skeletal remains in a military style duffel bag that matched Yvonne's DNA. Brimager was arrested on obstruction of justice charges, and faces murder charges in Panama.

"We're ready, we're ready for this chapter in our lives to end. We're ready for him to go to prison to do his time, and to leave us alone with our grief and our memories. We want this over," Beyer said.

At Wednesday's court hearing, Judge Barry Moskowitz cleared the courtroom to protect the confidentially of the breast cancer patient, whose health record would be discussed. The rest of the hearing took place in closed session, so no one knows at this point, what was decided, or if prosecutors will be allowed to take the deposition.

CBS News 8 did see Brimager's new wife at the hearing Wednesday, who had no comment.

You can watch more about Yvonne Baldelli's disappearance on a new episode of "48 Hours" on Saturday, November 15 at 10 p. m. here on CBS 8.

Editor's Comment: I just want to express my continued support for each and every member of Yvonne's family, as well as all of her friends, with a special acknowledgement and recognition of her sister's strength - as she fights several battles simultaneously.

It's going to take a very long time for these legal battles to work their way through the court system - but the evidence against Brian Brimager is overwhelming. But there's one element of this whole thing that I simply cannot understand. Why is the father of Brimager's new wife - the woman he married after he murdered Yvonne Baldelli and returned to the United States - paying the bills for his legal defense? Doesn't he understand this man murdered another man's daughter? As a father myself, there's no way in hell I would ever put myself in a position of "solidarity" with a murderer. Rather, I would reach out to and support Yvonne's father, and help him in any way I could. Daddy's little girl getting what she wants? Even if it's a legal team for a guy who murdered and butchered another man's daughter? Until the day I die, I will never (ever) understand this one...

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