First court appearance for Laurean

April 20, 2009 3:31:13 PM PDT
A Camp Lejeune Marine charged with killing a pregnant colleague made his first court appearance Monday. Cesar Laurean, 22, is facing murder charges in the death of fellow Marine Maria Lauterbach.

Lauterbach's charred remains were found in Laurean's Onslow County backyard in January 2008. Investigators say she was pregnant at the time of her death.

Laurean arrived in North Carolina Friday night after American authorities extradited him from Mexico. Laurean took a bus there after Lauterbach's death, and Mexican officials refused to allow him to be extradited unless they got an assurance he wouldn't face the death penalty.

"You can't get away from the long arm of the law," Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown said a news conference. "Through all my many years in law enforcement, no crime committed in Onslow County or anywhere else has generated so much public response," Brown said.

On Monday, Laurean appeared in court wearing a bulletproof vest under his orange prison issued jumpsuit. When Judge Paul A. Hardison asked whether he understood the charges, he replied, "Yes, sir." Hardison then denied bond.

Laurean attorney Dick McNeil says he may try to get the trial moved to a different court because media coverage has been extensive.

"If it was a betting thing, Vegas would take it off the board," McNeil said.

He also said he wouldn't file any motions until he read the 6,000 pages of discovery documents he expects this week from prosecutors. Another hearing is set for May.

Lauterbach, who worked with Laurean at Camp Lejeune, had claimed that he was the father was the father of her unborn child and accused him of rape. She later recanted that claim after her conception date was recalculated following a doctor's examination. Prosecutors served Laurean with a search warrant for his DNA Monday with the intention of having a paternity test performed.

Laurean is charged with first-degree murder, robbery with dangerous weapon, theft of a financial transaction card, attempted fraud with a financial transaction card and obtaining property by false pretense.

The Marine Corps said last week it would administratively discharge Laurean.

In a strange side note, the Mexican lawman that captured Laurean was ambushed and shot dead in front of his home recently. Officials say they don't believe there's any connection to the Laurean case.


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