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Cesar Armando LAUREAN

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Rape - Marine
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: December 15, 2007
Date of arrest: April 10, 2008
Date of birth: November 13, 1986
Victim profile: Lance Corporal Maria Frances Lauterbach, 20 (seven months pregnant)
Method of murder: Beating with a crowbar
Location: Jacksonville, North Carolina, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison without parole on August 23, 2010
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Former Marine Gets Life in Prison for Killing Pregnant Colleague

FoxNews.com

August 24, 2010

GOLDSBORO, N.C. -- A former Marine has been sentenced to life in prison after a jury convicted him of murder in the death of a pregnant colleague who had accused him of rape, an allegation that threatened to derail a military career that had earned him promotions and praise.

Cesar Laurean, 23, of Las Vegas, was found guilty Monday of killing Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, 20, of Vandalia, Ohio, in December 2007. The two were assigned to the same logistics unit at Camp Lejeune, the base in Jacksonville, N.C., that is home to about 50,000 Marines. The trial was moved because of extensive pretrial publicity.

The former Marine corporal was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for first-degree murder. Defense lawyer Dick McNeil told the court Laurean would appeal his conviction.

Before the judge imposed the sentence, the victim's mother, Mary Lauterbach, read a tearful statement. She told Laurean to remember the pain in his mother's face, and to think of the daughter who will have to live with the shame of a father who is a killer.

"Now you will have time to think about your shame, time to think about your failures," Mary Lauterbach said. "There are many people out there who will die today, people who would love to have the time that God has given you."

One juror said the panel didn't believe the theory McNeil presented that someone else, perhaps Laurean's enraged wife, could have killed Lauterbach with a single swing of a crowbar that fractured her skull. The jury of seven women and five men deliberated for three hours Monday before convicting Laurean.

"The thought entered out minds, but everything pointed to the fact that he is the one who did this crime," juror Brenda Peters said. "We went back over every speck of evidence that there was, piece by piece. That's how we reached our verdict."

Neither Laurean nor his wife testified during the trial.

Laurean's father, Salvador, and sister Blanca said they wished more of the testimony would have explained the problems the ex-Marine had with Lauterbach, whom the higher-ranking Laurean was ordered by superiors to help shape up.

"He's a nice, nice guy," Blanca Laurean said. "He doesn't deserve everyone thinking he's the worst man in the world. He's not."

Laurean also faced three other charges of robbing Lauterbach of her bank ATM card, and of theft and attempted fraud for allegedly trying to use it to withdraw cash. He was found not guilty of the robbery charge, but Laurean was convicted on the fraud and theft charges.

Lauterbach's rape accusation never was corroborated, but a Marine buddy testified Laurean told him the sex was consensual. A DNA test would prove later that Laurean was not the father of Lauterbach's child. She was seven months pregnant when she died.

Even if the rape accusation was false, the married father of a young child faced having his career derailed for committing adultery with a subordinate, District Attorney Dewey Hudson said. Laurean had already faced an order to stay away from Lauterbach, and his Marine superiors said a hearing on the rape allegation was approaching.

"He was a married man. He was her boss. He had sex with her," Hudson told jurors in his closing argument. "He's damned if he does or damned if he don't."

Laurean, who was born in Mexico, fled his home and was on the run until police arrested him in April 2009 in the Mexican municipality of Tacambaro. Prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty so Mexican authorities would return Laurean, who was born in Guadalajara, to the U.S. Laurean was kicked out of the Marines after fleeing as investigators closed in.

Testimony showed that hours before Lauterbach was last seen alive, she withdrew $700, left a note for her roommate saying she was quitting the Marines, and bought a bus ticket to El Paso, Texas, on the Mexican border. Lauterbach told the ticket agent that her child was fathered by a fellow Marine she was barred from seeing, but she expected him to join her soon.

The same Marine buddy, Lance Cpl. Blake Costa, testified that Laurean told him he wanted to tell Lauterbach she could stay with his relatives in Mexico, where he would send her money and join her later.

Laurean knew that once Lauterbach was declared a deserter, her already shaky credibility within their unit would be destroyed. He hoped he would be cleared to continue his career, Hudson said.

Lauterbach's charred corpse was discovered nearly a month later in a hole under the firepit Laurean built over the grave, prosecutors said.

"It almost worked. She bought the ticket," Hudson said. "But something happened at his home that day. And then he used a second plan, and that was smashing in her head with a crowbar."

 
 

Lance Corporal Maria Frances Lauterbach (November 17, 1987(1987-11-17) December 2007) of Vandalia, Ohio, was a United States Marine who went missing from Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina on December 14, 2007. At the time of her disappearance, Lauterbach was eight months pregnant.

Lauterbach grew up in Dayton, where she attended Butler High School (Vandalia, Ohio). Lauterbach joined the Marines on June 6, 2006. She was a personnel clerk assigned to Combat Logistics Regiment 27, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force.

Background and death

According to her adoptive mother, Mrs. Mary Lauterbach, LCpl. Lauterbach was preparing to testify that she was raped by a fellow Marine. Mrs. Lauterbach told police that her daughter "claimed she had been raped by a senior Marine at her command, and that the investigation had gone sour." According to an Associated Press report, her adoptive mother also told police "that her daughter was bipolar and had a history of compulsive lying". Tony Harris of CNN reported on January 12, 2008, that Lauterbach never felt that her adoptive parents treated her as well as their natural children. Her adoptive mother reported her missing on December 19, five days after their last conversation. Her cellphone was found on December 20, near the main gate at Camp Lejeune.

Authorities found the burned remains of Maria Lauterbach and her unborn child in a fire pit in Corporal Cesar Armando Laurean's backyard. They also found a large quantity of her blood in Laurean's house in Jacksonville, N.C. Laurean has been reported as having tried to clean up the scene.

During a press conference on January 11, 2008, Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown reported the death of Lauterbach. Brown stated that authorities "had gotten physical evidence of the woman's death that also linked Laurean to the death." Laurean claims in a note found by his wife that Maria Lauterbach committed suicide by cutting her own throat during an argument at the Laurean home. However, authorities found evidence that points to murder in the initial investigation. This is further supported by the autopsy results released in March 2008, which classified the neck wound as post-mortem and insufficient to causing death. The official cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head.

Cesar Laurean

Marine Corporal Cesar Laurean (SEH'-sahr LOHR'-ee-uhn), the 21 year old prime suspect in the case, was the man whom Lauterbach accused of sexually assaulting her. A federal warrant for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution was issued for his arrest on January 12, 2008. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service issued a wanted flier on him. There was also a $25,000 reward offered by the FBI and $5,000 from the state of North Carolina for information leading to his capture. Onslow County has primary jurisdiction, but the Judge Advocate General's office may bring charges as well, to include but not limited to charges stemming from Laurean's deserter status.

Shortly after the murder, the press reported that Laurean fled to Mexico, his country of birth. Mexican officials issued an arrest warrant for Laurean as a suspect of killing his pregnant colleague, a U.S. Embassy official said on January 29, in Mexico City. Interpol also issued an international wanted notice for Laurean.  A cousin of the Corporal informed reporters that the Marine visited family in the area of Guadalajara, Mexico in late January 2008, but left without saying where he was headed.America's Most Wanted featured this story on their April 5, 2008 episode.

On April 10, 2008, the FBI announced that Cesar Laurean had been apprehended in Tacambaro, Michoacan, Mexico.  The popular press indicated that his extradition might involve at least two years of legal proceedings, considering the relationship between the United States and Mexico. In September 2008, Onslow County District Attorney Dewey Hudson agreed not to seek the death penalty, and a Mexican judge agreed to extradite Laurean.

However, in October 2008, Laurean launched another appeal to the Mexican courts to prevent his extradition, arguing that North Carolina's life-without-parole sentence for first-degree murder is not only barred under the countries' extradition treaty but is considered cruel and unusual punishment. (In North Carolina, a person convicted of first-degree murder can only be sentenced to death or life without parole.)

On April 17, 2009, the FBI announced that Laurean had been extradited to the United States and was being held in the Onslow County jail. In December, an Onslow County judge agreed that the trial should be moved to a different county due to the extensive media coverage on the case, and scheduled it to begin on June 28, 2010. In January 2010, Wayne County was selected.

In 2009, Mary Lauterbach filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Caesar and his wife Christina, accusing them of conspiring to conceal the murder.

On August 24, 2010, Laurean was convicted of murder, as well as theft and fraud charges relating to using Lauterbach's ATM card while on the lam, and sentenced to life in prison. The jurors dismissed the defense's theory that Christina was in fact the real murderer, favoring the prosecution's argument that Laurean's desperation to save his career led to the incident. He initially conspired with her to run to Mexico, supposedly with the intent of destroying her credibility with the desertion and continue his career in the Corps, but reverted to killing her with a crowbar when that failed.

Wikipedia.org

 
 

Cpl. Cesar Laurean Faces Murder Charge in Pregnant Marine Death

April 14, 2008 - KRDO.com

(ABC) - North Carolina law enforcement officials took pains Friday to publicly applaud the work of Mexican law enforcement officials in the capture of fugitive Marine Cesar Armando Laurean and to reassure that nation that he would be treated fairly if and when he is extradited to the United States.

"While Laurean's crime was horrible -- to say the least -- Cesar Laurean is not an animal,'' Onslow County, N.C., Sheriff Ed Brown said at a Friday afternoon press conference. "He's a human, and he's not a trophy. Laurean, when he comes back to the sheriff's office, will be treated just as any other inmate; he is not a high-profile inmate. He will be just like any other inmate housed in this Onslow County jail."

Laurean has been on the lam since January, after investigators said they found the charred remains of Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach and her unborn baby buried in Laurean's backyard. Lauterbach, who was eight months pregnant, disappeared in December 2007. The discovery of her remains prompted authorities to file murder charges against Laurean.

Laurean had been Lauterbach's senior officer at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina until she accused him of raping her. The Marines have said Laurean was never taken into custody because he had denied the charge and there was no evidence to support the accusation.

Death Penalty Still Off the Table

Onslow County District Attorney Dewey Hudson reiterated his promise to Mexican officials that he would not seek the death penalty if a jury convicted Laurean of murder.

Referring to a decades-old treaty with Mexico that precludes officials there from turning over fugitives who would face capital punishment to U.S. authorities, Hudson said at the press conference that his office had reluctantly but firmly agreed to those conditions.

Hudson said his office had "reviewed'' the treaty "very carefully'' and had come to the "inescapable conclusion'' that the agreement was airtight. "Depending on whether or not Cesar Laurean waives extradition, this process could take a few days or up to a couple years to occur."

Dewey said he'll work closely with the U.S. Justice Dept. to "facilitate Laurean's expeditions return to Jacksonville for trial." If convicted, Laurean would face a sentence of life in prison.

The End of a Manhunt

Laurean's arrest Thursday brought to close a massive three-month international manhunt.

North Carolina law enforcement officials indicated that U.S. authorities had been hot on Laurean's heels for some time.

"In the last couple of weeks, we developed specific information, and through a coordinated effort with the FBI, NCIS [Naval Criminal Investigative Service] and this office, began to narrow down and focus the area where we suspected that Cesar Laurean was," Capt. Rick Sutherland of the Onslow County Sheriff's Office said.

Sutherland noted that the investigators were able to "narrow our focus" in the search for Laurean after they analyzed and substantiated information they received over the past couple of weeks that Laurean "was reaching out and attempting to communicate with family members and persons located in this county."

Questions About Christina Laurean

Amid questions about any cooperation Laurean's wife might have provided, Sutherland said that "a number of questions have been raised about Christina Laurean ... and our office has continued to repeat the fact that she was a cooperating witness with this investigation. That status has not changed."

Pressed for further information on any investigation into Christina Laurean's activities, Hudson said, "Let me just say this -- from all the evidence I reviewed, I feel confident saying that she is torn. She's torn between what occurred and her love for her husband."

But authorities did say they don't believe she helped him while he was on the run.

"Cesar Laurean repeatedly asked for resources from family members, and those family members denied those resources, specifically Christina denied those" requests, Sutherland said.

Magdalena Guzman, a spokeswoman for the Michoacan, Mexico, state prosecutor's office, said Thursday that Laurean told arresting authorities that he had only about 10 pesos -- roughly $1 -- when he was captured, supporting the notion that Laurean's family had cut him off.

Christina Laurean has remained silent on the events surrounding her husband's investigation. Christopher Welch, her attorney, explained that silence Friday, noting that she is also a Marine, and that the Corps has prohibited her from speaking out about the case.

During the course of the investigation, authorities said Christina Laurean, the mother of Cesar Laurean's toddler, handed over notes left by her husband in which he allegedly claimed that Lauterbach had slit her own throat before he burned and buried her body.

Sutherland added that if new information was developed that required new arrest warrants in the case, they would be issued.

Laurean Arrested in Mexico

A senior law enforcement official told ABC News that Mexican authorities arrested Laurean, 21, Thursday evening in a town in the Mexican state of Michoacan, after he was spotted on the street.

Mexican police on an anti-kidnapping operation reportedly spotted Laurean wandering the street and became suspicious when they realized he didn't speak Spanish very well. He was taken into custody and later identified in part by his extensive tattoos, The Associated Press reported.

"He was walking down the street. He did not resist," said FBI spokeswoman Amy Thoreson. "We had FBI agents, NCIS agents as well as the Mexican authorities [there] at the time."

The AP briefly interviewed Laurean Thursday night at the Michoacan state attorney general's office in that state's capital city of Morelia. The reporter noted that a shackled Laurean teared up at times and appeared slightly disoriented. "You know my name. You know who I am," the news service quoted a bearded Laurean as saying.

Chained at the wrists and ankles, Laurean stared straight ahead as he answered a series of questions from an AP reporter. Asked whether he had anything he wanted to say, Laurean reportedly replied, "Proof." Asked what he would do next, he asked "Do I have a choice? & I don't know."

Antonio Garza, U.S. ambassador to Mexico, confirmed in a statement that authorities had arrested Laurean in the town of Tacambaro, also in the Mexican state of Michoacan.

In addition to the murder charges authorities in Onslow County, N.C., filed against Laurean the day after they say they recovered Lauterbach's remains, federal officials charged Laurean with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution and issued an additional warrant for his arrest.

Officials believe Laurean fled North Carolina during the early morning hours of the day investigators discovered Lauterbach's remains. Investigators traced Laurean to Mexico after discovering he had ridden a bus there just hours before they launched an intense manhunt.

Sources familiar with the probe had previously told ABC News that Laurean boarded a bus in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and then rode to Houston. In Houston, he allegedly boarded another bus and then traveled to San Luis Potosi, a state in central Mexico.

Sources say U.S. authorities tracked his general location by triangulating cell phone and other electronic communications.

Laurean was born in Mexico, but became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2003. It's not known whether he retained his Mexican citizenship, although investigators have said that he has family in Mexico.

As of Friday, authorities are holding Laurean in Mexico City. "Extradition proceedings will follow their normal course," Mexican Ambassador to the United States Arturo Sarukhan said in a statement to ABC News, "but the arrest underscores Mexico's commitment with the rule of law and to fully cooperate with the United States on all law enforcement issues."

"It highlights our strong determination to make Mexican territory an ill-fitted choice for any fugitive seeking a safe haven from justice," the statement continued.

Local, state, federal and military investigators worked with Interpol and the Mexican government coordinated the manhunt.

"The FBI and its law enforcement partners brought to bear all of our domestic and international resources to find a man wanted for murder. Laurean's swift arrest in Mexico was due to the diligence and dedication of the Mexican government and our law enforcement partners," Nathan Gray, the FBI special agent in charge, said in a statement released Thursday.

An attorney for Lauterbach's family said the victim's mother received a call from the FBI confirming the capture around 9 p.m. Thursday.

''She's been living with Cpl. Laurean being on the run & and living without an expectation that he was going to be captured any time soon, so when the word came it really caught her by surprise, and she's still trying to let it all sink in,'' family lawyer Merle Wilberding told WDTN-TV in Dayton, Ohio.

 
 

Pregnant Marine Murdered In North Carolina

Prosecutors said they will not seek the death penalty against Marine Cpl. Cesar Laurean, who is suspected of killing a 20-year-old pregnant colleague -- but only if he is arrested in Mexico.

A grand jury delivered an indictment against Marine Cpl. Cesar Laurean on a charge of first-degree murder in the death of Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, who had once accused him of rape. Her remains, along with the remains of her unborn child, were found in a fire pit in Laurean's North Carolina backyard.

Authorities believe Laurean has fled to his native Mexico, which refuses to send anyone back to the United States unless they are provided with assurances they won't face the death penalty.

"This agreement to not seek the death penalty applies only if he is arrested in and extradited from Mexico," Onslow County, N.C. District Attorney Dewey Hudson said.

Earlier, a man identified as his cousin said Laurean walked into his liquor store in Guadalajara, Mexico, but left without saying where he was headed.

Hudson said the grand jury also indicted Laurean with robbery with a dangerous weapon and a charge involving an unauthorized financial transaction involving card theft.

But because authorities have determined that Maria's child had not been born at the time of her death, Hudson said, prosecutors are only allowed under North Carolina to charge Laurean with a single count of murder.

Before Laurean fled from Jacksonville in early January, he left a note for his wife, Christina, that said Maria slit her own throat with a knife, and he then buried her in the woods near their home. Detectives have rejected that claim, and an autopsy found that Maria died of blunt force trauma to the head.

Pick-Up Truck Recovered

Authorities have said Laurean's wife, Christina Laurean, is cooperating with authorities and provided them with the note her husband left before skipping town. In that note, he said Maria committed suicide by cutting her own throat. Authorities have rejected that claim, and autopsy results released Tuesday found she died of "traumatic head injury due to blunt force trauma."

Autopsy reports show that there was a superficial four-inch wound to the left side of Maria's neck, but that Laurean might have made the cut there himself after her death to corroborate his story. The medical examiner is still conducting an autopsy on Maria's child, who Maria's parents said was a baby boy named Gabriel Joseph, to determine the child's paternity. Cops believe the baby died in utero. Beneath the bodies of Maria and Gabriel was a bag of baby clothes.

Maria alleged in May 2007 that Laurean had raped her in March and April of that year. A pregnancy test soon after was negative, according to Marine Corps officials, but a test in June was positive. Doctors estimated the date of conception at May 14.

Corps officials said Maria met with prosecutors in November 2007 and said she no longer believed Laurean was the father. They said her regimental commander was intent on taking the case to an Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a grand jury proceeding.

Col. Gary Sokoloski, the judge advocate general officer for the Second Marine Expeditionary Force, said that Laurean denied having any sexual contact with Lauterbach. He also did not violate a military protective order directing him to stay away from Lauterbach and continued to report for work on time in the weeks after her disappearance, he said.

"At no time did she indicate that she was threatened by Cpl. Laurean," Sokoloski said. "When she was asked if she felt threatened by Cpl. Laurean, she said she did not feel threatened."

Timeline Of Events

At a press conference January 15, 2008, Lt. Col. Curtis Hill -- the public affairs officer of the Second Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune, N.C. -- released the following timeline of events related to the disappearance and murder of Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach:

May 11, 2007
Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach reports two encounters of a sexual nature with Cpl. Laurean to her supervisor. She reported that the first encounter occurred on March 26, the second about two weeks later. At that time, a pregnancy test was performed, which came back negative.

May 11
Naval Criminal Investigative Service opens rape investigation.

May 12
Verbal order issued barring contact or communication between Laurean and Maria. Maria moved to another building across the base from Laurean.

May 24
Written order issued barring contact or communication between Maria and Laurean.

June 19 - June 24
Maria takes annual leave home to Ohio.

June 27
Maria goes to a doctor feeling sick. A pregnancy test was performed, which came back positive. Doctors estimate the date of conception to be May 14.

Over the summer months, Maria and Laurean each take leave time and return to the base as scheduled.

September 17
Maria requests permission to move into off-base housing to care for her baby. Her request was approved on Oct. 31.

October 18
NCIS recommends that no disciplinary action be taken until evidence can be taken from the child.

October 22
Witnesses questioned in rape investigation.

November 5
Maria moves off-base into home with Sgt. Durham, who planned to leave North Carolina in December for training in California. Maria planned to sublet the home in his absence.

The same day, a trial council re-interviews Maria, at which time she adjusts her statement to say that her pregnancy was not the result of a sexual assault.

November 26
Trial council discusses what possible charges -- if any -- would be filed against Laurean. Maria attends her last doctor's appointment.

December 14
Maria reported to work. Her workday ended at noon for a Christmas party, which she did not attend. Sgt. Durham returned to their home and says he finds a note from Maria that expressed her desire to leave the Marine Corps. Sgt. Durham said her car was gone, and some personal items were taken. Marine command determined that Maria had gone U.A. Investigators find that Maria withdrew $700 from a Jacksonville, N.C. ATM, and bought a Greyhound bus ticket to El Paso.

December 19
Maria fails to report to work. Sgt. Durham gives commanders Maria's note; command sends investigators to her house, and reports that her car and her things were gone.  She's listed as a deserter because of concern over her health.

December 19
Command calls Maria's mother, who she says she last spoke with her daughter on Dec. 14. Maria's mother says she doesn't know where Maria is; her mom files a missing persons report in Ohio. Maria's cell phone is found along Hwy 24 when a stranded motorist uses the phone to call Maria's sister. She asked the person to turn the phone in to police.

December 24
An unidentified man withdraws $400 from Maria's bank account at an ATM in Jacksonville, N.C.

December 26
Maria misses an appointment with her obstetrician.

January 7, 2008
NCIS finally learns about the cell phone's discovery, the ATM withdrawals, and the Greyhound bus ticket.  Up to this point, they still thought Maria was UA. Laurean is questioned as possible witness to Maria's disappearance, but not as a suspect. Laurean asks to leave work to meet with his civilian attorneys.  Command doesn't see anything unusual with this given the status of the rape investigation.

January 8
The protective order between Laurean and Maria is reissued. It's learned that the order of protection had lapsed between Dec. 24 and Jan, 7 due to an administrative oversight.

January 11
Laurean doesn't report to work, and commanders are unable to get in contact with him by phone. He is presumed to be U.A. Onslow County Sheriff's Office holds press conference announcing they believe Maria is dead and buried in Onslow County, and Laurean is considered a person of interest.  Laurean's wife gives authorities a note from Laurean stating that Maria had taken her own life. This was deemed to be impossible.

*****

Laurean Busted In Mexico

April 10, 2008

A Marine wanted in the brutal slaying of a pregnant colleague who had accused him of rape was arrested in Mexico, the FBI said late Thursday.

The FBI's office in Charlotte said special agents and Mexican authorities arrested Marine Cpl. Cesar Laurean, who is charged with murder in the death of Marine Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach. The FBI did not say when or where in Mexico Laurean was arrested, but said he is awaiting extradition to the U.S.

"Laurean's swift arrest in Mexico was due to the diligence and dedication of the Mexican government and our law enforcement partners," Nathan Gray, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Charlotte office, said in a statement.

"This was truly an international effort, and we will do all we can to ensure Laurean is brought back to Onslow County (N.C.) as quickly as possible to answer the charges against him."

Onslow County District Attorney Dewey Hudson said after Laurean's arrest was announced that "it could be a year or two" before authorities can bring the personnel clerk back to North Carolina if he decides to fight the extradition process.

"The extradition process is one where you have a right to appeal," Hudson told The Associated Press. "I have no idea whether he would waive extradition."

AMW.com

 
 

Scenes From a Pregnant Marine's Murder

Other Images Show Fugitive Marine Using Victim's ATM Card, Buying Suspicious Supplies

By David Schoetz - ABC News

Jan. 22, 2008

The most haunting image shows a man-made fire pit, square in shape and enclosed by 12 concrete cinder blocks, a spot where investigators made a gruesome discovery last month.

The photo is part of a group of images released Monday night by officials looking for Cpl. Cesar Laurean, a missing Marine who police think killed another Marine who had accused him of rape.

Police say they hope the images will help end a massive FBI manhunt for Laurean that has stretched from North Carolina, across the United States and perhaps into Mexico, where Laurean was born.

The photos were taken during a police investigation at Laurean's home after his wife confided to authorities that Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, a missing, pregnant 20-year-old Marine who had accused her husband of rape at the Camp Lejeune military base, was dead and buried in their North Carolina backyard.

Crime scene investigators began to slowly excavate the fire pit, and within 24 hours, Onslow County Sheriff's Office had released a grim statement confirming its initial suspicions.

"Charred human remains of an adult and a fetus were unearthed," the statement read. "There appeared to be the bodies of an adult female with a fetus located near the abdomen region of the female."

Authorities also released images from inside the Laurean house, including the garage where they believe the murder took place "based on the blood and the interpretation of the blood spatters" on the walls. The photos show a paint tray and 2-foot square patch of wall that has been repainted.

An arrest warrant was issued for Laurean, but the 21-year-old, who was raised in Nevada, was already on the run, thanks to the 24 hours his wife had waited before she contacted police.

Laurean is a naturalized U.S. citizen, but may have retained his Mexican citizenship as well. Laurean reportedly had told fellow Marines in his unit that he would run to Mexico if he were found guilty by the military of raping Lauterbach.

"That's definitely a viable place he could be," Capt. Rick Sutherland, the spokesman for the Onslow County Sheriff's Office, told ABC News. But Sutherland said that a high volume of tips have come in placing Laurean in the American Southwest and in states immediately surrounding North Carolina.

Tips that come in of possible sightings outside of Onslow County are turned over to the FBI, Sutherland said. The FBI's Charlotte bureau, Sutherland said, is serving as a clearinghouse for the search. "We've received a number of tips that we believe are credible and worth following up on," Sutherland added.

Lauterbach was killed Dec. 15 by some type of blunt trauma to the head, a state medical examiner determined. Last week, Onslow County Sheriff's Office authorities announced that a witness had turned in a weapon that may have been used in Lauterbach's death, but would not confirm reports the suspected murder weapon was a crowbar.

This weekend, authorities teamed up with the TV show "America's Most Wanted" and showed surveillance footage of Laurean and an unidentified man entering and exiting a Lowe's home improvement store once on Dec. 16 and again on Dec. 24. Lauterbach had been last seen Dec. 14 and was reported missing by her family in her home state of Ohio, Dec. 19. In his shopping trips, Laurean purchased a wheelbarrow, paint and concrete blocks like the ones used to ring the fire pit. Another image shows Laurean using Lauterbach's card at an ATM machine Dec. 24.

"It's a possibility that some of these items were used to cover up a crime," Sutherland said.

Sutherland told ABC News that authorities have interviewed the friend seen in the Lowe's videotape three times and that he is considered a "cooperating witness." Christine Laurean, the fugitive's wife and a former Marine, has also been called a cooperating witness, even though she waited almost a day before notifying authorities.

Christine Laurean, the mother of the couple's 18-month-old, handed over notes left by her husband in which he claimed that Lauterbach had slit her own throat before he burned and buried her body.

Before he took off, Laurean told his wife that Lauterbach had demanded money from him so she could leave the area and that he bought her a bus ticket to El Paso, Texas, according to court documents released last week. Lauterbach's abandoned car was recovered at the bus stop, but the ticket to El Paso was never used.

Physical evidence suggests that Lauterbach was planning to leave Jacksonville on her own. She had withdrew $700 from her bank account and packed personal belongings before leaving her off-base roommate with a note that read, "I could not take this Marine Corps life anymore. So I am going away."

Questions have also been raised about the status of the military's rape investigation and whether military investigators believed that the rape allegations from March and April may be unfounded. Marine Corps officials had said that Lauterbach told investigators in November that she no longer believed that Laurean was the father of the unborn child.

Laurean had been Lauterbach's senior officer until she accused him of raping her. He was never taken into custody because he denied the charge and there was no evidence to support the accusation, Marine Corps officials said last week.

The Marines first began searching for Lauterbach, Dec. 17, after she failed to show up for her job as a military personnel clerk.

Mary Lauterbach, Maria's mother, told the Dayton Daily News in an interview published Sunday that questions about her daughter's credibility may have made her a vulnerable target in the events leading up to her death.

Mary Lauterbach chided her daughter for waiting a month before reporting the rape to her commanders. "You realize you've lost all your evidence now?" she recounted asking her daughter in May.

The mother reportedly had reason to question her daughter's credibility she had to prove to Marines at Camp Lejeune that a story Maria Lauterbach had shared with fellow Marines about her father accidentally killing her brother when he was 6 years old was a lie.

When the Onslow County Sheriff's Office asked Mary Lauterbach to write an e-mail telling investigators everything she could about her daughter, she admitted that her daughter "had problems with occasional compulsive lying" and that Maria Lauterbach's biological father may have suffered from bipolar disorder.

Mary Lauterbach faced criticism when she made similar comments on "Good Morning America" Jan. 11, the day her pregnant daughter's remains were discovered.

If Laurean is found in Mexico, Onslow County District Attorney Dewey Hudson will not be able to pursue the death penalty on the murder charge. According to the U.S. State Department, Mexico and the United States have a long-standing agreement not to seek extradition of suspects to face charges in the United States if they could face the death penalty.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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