Marine murder suspect may be in Mexico

January 16, 2008 6:31:29 PM PST
The key suspect in the slaying of a 20-year-old pregnant Marine may have fled to Mexico, and the FBI is working with Mexican authorities to track him down, authorities said Wednesday.

A wide-ranging manhunt for Cpl. Cesar Armando Laurean began last week, after authorities said he fled North Carolina and left behind a note in which he admitted burying the body of Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, but said she committed suicide.

Detectives later found her remains, and those of her child, in Laurean's backyard. They have rejected the suggestion that Lauterbach, who had accused Laurean of rape, killed herself.

"We strongly suspect, but have not confirmed, that Laurean may be in Mexico," said FBI spokesman Richard Kolko in Washington. "We have a strong working relationship with law enforcement partners in Mexico and we're working with them to locate and apprehend him."

Laurean appears to have mailed letters back to his wife in North Carolina, according to two law enforcement officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation. It was not immediately clear what the letters said or how many of them were sent, or where they were sent from.

Authorities have said his wife, Christina Laurean, is cooperating with authorities and provided them with the note her husband left before skipping town.

Lauterbach died of "traumatic head injury due to blunt force trauma," according to autopsy results released Tuesday. But authorities said the exam failed to answer all the questions detectives have about Lauterbach's death, including whether she gave birth before her death and of the identity of the father.

Lauterbach alleged in May that Laurean had raped her in March and April. 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 was May 14.

Corps officials said Lauterbach met with prosecutors in November 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 II Marine Expeditionary Force, said Tuesday that Laurean denied having any sexual contact with her. 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 Tuesday. "When she was asked if she felt threatened by Cpl. Laurean, she said she did not feel threatened."

Authorities believe Lauterbach was killed around Dec. 15. Marine officials have they attempted to find her after she failed to report to work on Dec. 17, but had evidence -- including a note left for her roommate in which she wrote she was tired of the Marine Corps lifestyle -- that led them to believe she left on her own.

Laurean's pickup truck was towed on Tuesday after authorities found it abandoned at a motel parking lot in Morrisville, not far from where it was seen by witnesses in Durham, about 150 miles northwest of Jacksonville. It was taken back to Onslow County to be processed by the State Bureau of Investigation, officials said.

It was unclear how long the truck had been at the Microtel Inn. Sherrie Joyner, who works the front desk, said Laurean never checked in. The hotel is within one-mile of Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

Lauterbach's military ID card was found at a bus station in Durham, and authorities received reports from several witnesses Sunday who said they saw Laurean at a bus station in Shreveport, La. Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown has said detectives have been unable to confirm the Louisiana sightings.

As the manhunt for Marine Corporal Cesar Laurean intensifies, federal investigators are offering a $25,000 reward for information. Laurean is considered armed and dangerous. If you have any information concerning Laurean contact your local law enforcement immediately.


Load Comments