Laurean pleads not guilty in Marine death

June 8, 2009 7:39:43 PM PDT
On Monday during a brief hearing in a Onslow County courtroom, Marine Cesar Laurean pleaded not guilty to the death of a former colleague.Laurean, 22, is facing murder charges in the death of 20-year-old Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach of Vandalia, Ohio. Prosecutors say he won't face the death penalty if convicted.

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

In a report completed by the Department of Defense Armed Forces Institute of Pathology on May 7, DNA analysts concluded that Laurean was not the father of Lauterbach's unborn child.

Lauterbach told Navy investigators that she was raped by Laurean in 2007, though later recanted her claim that Laurean was the father of her unborn child. Investigators did not corroborate the rape claims.

Following Lauterbach's death, Laurean took a bus to Mexico, and Mexican officials refused to allow him to be extradited back to the U.S. unless they got an assurance he wouldn't face the death penalty. He was held in prison for more than a year until being extradited on April 17.

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.

On April 20, Laurean appeared in court wearing a bulletproof vest under his orange prison issued jumpsuit.

When a judge asked Laurean whether he understood the charges, he replied, "Yes, sir." He was then denied bond.

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

The Marine Corps said in April 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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