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Fugitive Marine May Have Talked to Sheriff About Surrender

Posted April 12, 2008

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— The Onslow County sheriff might have been in contact with Camp Lejeune Marine indicted in the killing of a pregnant comrade about a week before his capture in Mexico, authorities said late Friday.

Mexican authorities arrested Cpl. Cesar Laurean, 21, Thursday in Tacambaro, Michoacan, a small town between Mexico City and Guadalajara. He is charged with murder in the December death of Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach.

Sheriff Ed Brown received an email from a person claiming to Laurean at 12:56 a.m. March 30, Capt. Rick Sutherland said in a statement Friday.

"The sender claimed that they wanted to open a dialogue with Sheriff Brown to possibly arrange his surrender," Sutherland said.

The sender asked if Brown could ensure him immunity from a military trial. "I know they will convict me with no evidence, I cant risk Leavenworth or a chain gang," the email read.

Sutherland said law enforcement has not verified that the email came from Laurean. The sender spelled the fugitive Marine's name as Lauren.

"The email appeared to be sent from Mexico, and the circumstances surrounding the delivery of the message were consistent with messages known to have been sent from Laurean," Sutherland said.

Messages exchanged via a computer owned by Laurean's sister-in-law provided valuable information to narrow the search, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents said.

Authorities focused on Mexico after Laurean fled Jacksonville on Jan. 11, hours before Lauterbach's charred remains were found buried in his back yard. He was born in Mexico before becoming a U.S. citizen and has relatives there.

Brown responded to the email, because it might have been "a legitimate attempt by Laurean to arrange his surrender," and the sheriff urged the sender to do just that, Sutherland said.

"Mr. Lauren, turning yourself in would be a very positive step, the wisest thing you could do," Brown wrote. "My opinon is based on experiences observed through nearly forty years of law enforcement."

Brown wrote that after consultations with Onslow County District Attorney Dewey Hudson, he could not ensure the sender immunity from military prosecution. However, military officials have let civilian authorities take the lead in the case, Brown wrote.

If the Marine Corps wishes to try Laurean, it must file charges before his first extradition hearing. The extradition process could take between two months and a year, depending on if Laurean decides to fight it.

Brown emailed his cell phone number if the sender "desire(d) to have a verbal dialogue." He gave assurances that he was "committed to being honest and straight up with people, even persons in your situation" and would not "lie" or mislead" the sender.

He signed the email "a caring and serving sheriff, Ed Brown."

Brown said Friday that Laurean would be treated like every other inmate in his jail.

"Cesar Laurean is not an animal. He's a human, and he's not a trophy," he said.

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