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Man charged with stealing DA's files in slain Marine case

Posted August 15, 2008

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— A former intern in the Onslow County District Attorney's Office was charged Friday with taking investigative documents in the case of a slain pregnant Marine.

Robert Paul Sharpe, 33, of 147 Harris Creek Road in Jacksonville, was charged with one count each of embezzlement and misdemeanor larceny and was released on an unsecured $10,000 bond.

Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown said one of his investigators recently saw comments on a local blog in which someone claimed to have access to the investigative file in the pending murder case against Cpl. Cesar Laurean. He is charged with killing Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, a comrade at Camp Lejeune, in December.

Brown had a deputy pose as a reporter for Newsweek and go to a reporter for the Jacksonville Daily News on Wednesday to ask for information about the case for a story in the magazine. The reporter put the undercover deputy in contact with a confidential source, who agreed to provide Newsweek with information, he said.

Investigators then staked out the Onslow County District Attorney's Office for several hours and stopped Sharpe as he left the office at 2 a.m. Thursday with several file folders and compact disks, Brown said.

Sharpe, a former Marine, is a University of North Carolina-Wilmington student who worked as an intern in Onslow County District Attorney Dewey Hudson's office. He left the job Thursday.

Hudson said his office made two copies of about 60,000 pages and more than 30 CDs of evidence and other information collected in the case. Prosecutors kept one copy and provided the other to Laurean's defense attorneys, he said.

Sharpe's job was to copy papers, and he was not authorized to remove any paperwork, officials said.

The original case file has remained with Brown's investigators.

"None of the documents of this office have been compromised," Hudson said, adding that he will now lock up the Laurean case file and other investigative files in high-profile cases in his office to restrict access to them.

"I never dreamed (something like this) would occur," he said. "It's embarrassing to me, and it's embarrassing to the judicial system."

There was no evidence any news agency misappropriated any documents in the case file, he said.

Sharpe requested money for the files from the undercover deputy, Brown said. He declined to say how much was requested, except to say, "It's more than you could buy a steak for."

Sharpe's home and car were searched, and investigators seized his laptop, Hudson said.

"He had no authority to read the file or investigate the file or talk to any reporter," he said.

College students and law school students have worked as interns in the Onslow County District Attorney's Office for about 20 years, he said. The internships provide the students with experience and provide his prosecutors with needed assistance, he said.

Lauterbach's burned remains were found in a shallow grave behind Laurean's Jacksonville home in January. She was seven months pregnant at the time of her death.

Lauterbach had accused Laurean of raping her a year ago. Military authorities could never corroborate her allegations, but they planned to pursue hearings that could have led to charges against Laurean.

Laurean fled Jacksonville hours before Lauterbach's body was found, leaving behind a note in which he claimed she had committed suicide and that he had buried her out of fear.

An autopsy determined that Lauterbach had been beaten to death, and authorities said they found traces of blood inside Laurean's home.

Laurean was arrested in April in western Mexico after an international manhunt. He is awaiting extradition to the U.S.

Hudson said it was unclear how the alleged document theft would affect the case against Laurean, but the most potent danger to the case was one of perception.

"There's still a lot of information, a lot of evidence in the case that hasn't been released to the public," he said. "It would be harmful to the defendant and to (prosecutors) if it were to be released.

"The last thing that I want any judge in Mexico to think is there is corruption going on here," Hudson continued.

Laurean's attorney, Dick McNeil, said he doesn't think the incident would help or hurt his client.

"The bizarre becomes even more bizarre," McNeil said. "The case already seems to have a life of its own."

The state Administrative Office of the Courts has assigned a special prosecutor to handle Sharpe's case, Hudson said.

77 Comments

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  • PikeMom4real Aug 18, 2008

    wyheel,do you NOT realize this story and other's keep getting updated? The story "originally" said missing files.

  • Selleck Aug 15, 2008

    howdiditgetothis,

    The whole point is, nothing was locked or secure in that office for the past twenty years, read the story. The DA is at fault for VERY sloppy business practices. I can't imagine what Lauterbach's family felt during this charade. Sad.

  • Selleck Aug 15, 2008

    howdiditgetothis,

    Also - who gave the intern a key to get into the office anytime?

    The whole point is, nothing was locked or secure in that office for the past twenty years, read the story. The DA is at fault for VERY sloppy business practices. I can't imagine what Lauterbach's family felt during this charade. Sad.

  • howdiditgettothis Aug 15, 2008

    The story mentioned Sharpe was a former marine, and now a student. He shames the marines by conduct unbecoming!

    He should certainly be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, at the very least! School expulsion and punitive damages should also be considered.

    IMO, "interns" should NEVER be allowed to HAVE KEYS or anything else that permits them unrestricted access to anything!

    Do we really want "interns" handling high profile, graphic and disturbing murder case information? Shouldn't one have to "earn" the right through degree, tenure, or paid job duty, to receive access to certain things in their job?

    In my line of work, every single part of an intern's work is double checked, and I could lose my job if I fail to miss an intern's error.

    Shouldn't someone be held accountable for the intern program, and if there are not specific guidelines in place, there needs to be.

    Also - who gave the intern a key to get into the office anytime?

  • teacher-mom Aug 15, 2008

    This thief needs to be kicked out of school. A little time in jail might teach him a lesson. He should be ashamed.

  • Desiderata Aug 15, 2008

    It is getting harder and harder to be able to trust anyone these days.....guess they only ones that can keep a secret are the deceased....and even they "talk" to certain people!

  • ratherbnnc Aug 15, 2008

    Why in the world would anyone risk their job for that?
    MamaDummy

    JOB? he was only a volunteer!

  • Selleck Aug 15, 2008

    "None of the documents of this office have been compromised," Hudson said, adding that he will now lock up the case file and other investigative files in his office to restrict access to them.

    "I never dreamed something like this would occur," he said. "It's embarrassing to me, and it's embarrassing to the judicial system."

    Hudson should be fired for this. It was his fault and not the Judical system's fault.

  • familyfour Aug 15, 2008

    Maybe this won't turn out like the aired video of that drug bust a few weeks ago....

  • DonnaB Aug 15, 2008

    A 33-year-old intern? Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight. Going to college where? What major? Why is he an intern now? Required internship or optional? How did he end up in the DAs office? Did he get paid by the media to be their "leak"? Was he broke, or was he just greedy? And had he done anything like this before, assuming he held actual paying jobs at some point in the last 15 years.

    The rest of this story is going to be interesting.

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