Local News

Stepmother: Missing Marine Assaulted by Officer

Posted January 10, 2008

— A pregnant Marine who disappeared three weeks ago from Camp Lejeune was assaulted by a superior officer, her stepmother told investigators.

Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach 20, was reported missing on Dec. 19, authorities said. Her car was found Monday night at a bus station near base, and investigators found her cell phone along N.C. Highway 24.

Lauterbach's debit card was used on Christmas Eve to withdraw money from an automated teller machine, according to an affidavit attached to a search warrant in the case. The white man who used the card tried to cover the ATM camera with a rag, the affidavit said.

The location of the ATM wasn't disclosed in court documents, and Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown declined to identify the location on Thursday.

Authorities have been trying to determine if Lauterbach disappeared on her own or was abducted.

"You investigate a missing person just as you investigate a criminal case, and that is full-speed ahead," Brown said at a news conference Thursday afternoon.

An intensive investigation by the Onslow County Sheriff's Office, the State Bureau of Investigation and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service over the past day has developed "a more detailed picture" of Lauterbach and her disappearance, Brown said, adding that he feels better about the case than he did earlier in the week.

He declined to specify the evidence that has led him to become more positive about a resolution to the case.

"We pray that she's alive. We don't just hope; we pray that she's alive," he said.

According to an incident report attached to the search warrant, Lauterbach's stepmother told investigators that Lauterbach had been assaulted by a superior officer. Mary Lauterbach also told investigators that the officer threatened her stepdaughter's career with the Marines.

Brown said previously that Lauterbach had been the victim of an on-base crime and was scheduled to testify in the case, but he has declined to provide details of the case, saying it's being investigated by the military.

Camp Lejeune officials also declined to comment on the alleged on-base incident. They declined to say whether Maria Lauterbach is considered absent without leave.

NCIS investigators cited evidence that called into question Maria Lauterbach's credibility, according to the incident report.

Lauterbach, a member of the 2nd Marine Logistics Group, was 8½ months pregnant when she was last seen and could already be past her due date, authorities said.

Mary Lauterbach said she had a heated exchange with her stepdaughter the last time they spoke on the phone on Dec. 14, according to the search warrant. Mary Lauterbach wanted her stepdaughter to give the baby up for adoption, saying she wouldn't be able to care for it, the documents stated.

"I just want to see her again. I hope to see her, and I hope the baby is healthy. I am very concerned for both of them," Mary Lauterbach said from her Ohio home.

If Maria Lauterbach fled because of her pregnancy, Brown said she needed to come forward and get help from her family and friends.

"You can't run from those things in life," he said. "Regardless of the circumstances, this has got to stop."

Maria Lauterbach lives in the Midway Park housing area, which isn't on Camp Lejeune but is reserved for Marines. Deputies have searched the home and questioned some roommates.

One roommate, Sgt. Daniel Durham, had been deployed to California for training but was being brought back to North Carolina so authorities could question him in the case. Brown said Durham possibly was the last person to speak with Maria Lauterbach before her disappearance.

"We do feel like he has some answers, and the importance of having him back here is detrimental to the investigation," Brown said.

Durham is considered a "person of interest" in the case and not a suspect, he said.

Authorities also are searching Lauterbach's cell phone records, some financial transactions through Western Union and Durham's computer for possible evidence in the case, according to court documents.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • North Carolina Native Jan 11, 2008

    Her real mother did an interview with CNN which was aired in part on Nancy Grace.

  • outside_of_apex Jan 11, 2008

    I agree with GaFan006, there's a movie in here.

    Beautiful 20 yo blond


    camp lejune

    pregnant (due in Feb)

    disappears just before xmas

    car found at bus station

    cell phone found off highway just outside of camp

    atm card used by sneaky white guy using rag to block the cam

    (evil?) stepmother ... heated exchange

    stepmother -> adoption ... history of lying ... bipolar ... sexually assaulted

    Where's Monk when you need him? And what is a 20 yr old marine doing pregnant? Oh yeah, modern day Christians believe abstinence->virtue birth control->hell.

    Just more pieces to the puzzle, more dots to connect.

  • pwilliamson53 Jan 10, 2008

    Hopefully she found soon and that she and her baby are ok. Alot to this story, and just maybe the step mom pushed her to hard and she's gone in hiding. Praying for a good outcome.

  • enjoytheride2011 Jan 10, 2008

    Ed Brown has never been that great of a sheriff. It seems as though he thinks that the woman just walked off. The evidence points more towards some one kidnapping her. If he just rights this case off and they find her body somewhere years/days/months from now then her family should sue him. The police should work the case until they have solid evidence that proves she just left.
    By the way, if she just left why would she abanded her car at a bus station, leave her cell phone along highway 24, and let a guy use her ATM card?

  • krisaustin2 Jan 10, 2008

    I pray that this young woman and the baby that she is expecting are found alive. After reading this article, this is my speculation of what could have possibly happened. They said that she was a victim of a crime on base (that they won't elaborate on) and the stepmother wants her to give the baby up for adoption, So maybe she was raped and became pregnant. And maybe she was going to testify in the rape case and since the court day was near, someone kidnapped her, so she couldn't testify. That's my take on what could have possibily happened

  • clickclackity2 Jan 10, 2008

    The other news stations have a totally different account of this case.

  • Like that Jan 10, 2008

    Wow sounds to me like prosecutors need to do a lot more to keep up with and protect their witnesses. Wake County loses 2 witnesses and an accused murderer goes free. Imagine this person is not going to get charged either if the witness is not found. Seems like we have more of an INJUSTICE system.

  • gopanthers Jan 10, 2008

    Praying for the best but am fearing the worse. My heart is going out to all family and friends in this time of need.

  • AuntySocial Jan 10, 2008

    someone using her atm card and trying to cover the camera up...it sounds like foul play to me. I hope I am wrong, but...

  • parr4246 Jan 10, 2008

    Hopefully she will be found alive and well, but I still say they need to look into the father of the child..........