Local News

Ex-Marine pleads not guilty to pregnant comrade's death

Posted June 8, 2009

— A former Camp Lejuene Marine who was the target of an international manhunt in his pregnant colleague's beating death pleaded not guilty Monday.

Cesar Laurean, 22, pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and other charges in the December 2007 death of Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, 20. She was seven months pregnant at the time of her death.

Cesar Laurean court appearance Former Marine arraigned in colleague's slaying

Lauterbach told military officials in 2007 that Laurean raped her, but later recanted a claim that he fathered her unborn child. DNA tests later revealed that Laurean wasn't the father, The Associated Press reported last month.

Also on Monday, a Superior Court judge set a tentative date for Laurean to stand trial. Laurean's attorney, Dick McNeal, said he has eight pending murder cases and could not be ready before next year. The judge set March 15, 2010 for the trial to begin.

Laurean fled the United States for Mexico hours before authorities found Lauterbach's charred remains in a shallow grave behind his Jacksonville home in January 2008. He left a note claiming she committed suicide and that he had buried her out of fear.

Mexican authorities captured Laurean in April 2008 in Tacambaro, Mexico, and he was extradited to North Carolina last month after Onslow County prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty.

Prosecutors formally announced the decision Monday.

"We contend this should have been tried as a capital case," Hudson said. "We contend there were aggravating factors but unfortunately we cannot (try the case as a capital case)," Hudson said.
McNeal has said that his client looks forward to telling his side of the story in the courtroom. He would not comment on a possible defense strategy.

"I think, in this case, it's pretty clear it's going to take a long time to go through, that it's a pretty important case, a serious case, with a lot of issues," he said.

Onslow County District Attorney Dewey Hudson expressed concern after Monday's hearing, saying the trial date is too far away.

"I am not happy about that. We are ready to go to trial, and I think one that's deserving," Hudson said. "People all over the country, maybe all over the world, are following this, and it’s something we should be handling expeditiously. And we're not."

McNeal said after the hearing that he was concerned about Laurean's morale.

For security concerns, he said, his client spends about 164 hours a week in isolation and has 30 minutes a week for visitation, which is standard for those jailed in Onslow County.


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  • Adelinthe Jun 8, 2009

    JAT - "...they let him get away."

    Did you expect the USMC to incarcerate him with no evidence?

    The guy had run before Maria's body was even found. She had just signed out for maternity leave so the Corps would have had no reason to believe she was missing until her family inquired as to her whereabouts. By that time, it was already too late.

    And the Corps signed the whole things over to civilian LEO at that point because this beast lived off base.


    God bless.


  • Adelinthe Jun 8, 2009

    If he didn't do it, then why'd he run???

    What a joke this guy is.

    He runs, and sticks his wife and children to deal with the fallout.

    He was no REAL Marine, he was only playing at being one cause a REAL Marine wouldn't do this.

    Praying for Maria's true loved ones.

    God bless.


  • WRALwontdeletemyaccount Jun 8, 2009

    Darned inconvenient to have that body show up in your back yard.

  • taylor boy Jun 8, 2009

    Not guilty...I don't buy it.

  • JAT Jun 8, 2009

    and if she did commit suicide, why'd he do the overkill and burn her in his own backyard and have a BBQ over her body? The tangled web is just getting more and more tangled. And I have NEVER had my spouse dig a hole big enough for a body in my yard - that woman knew what her husband was doing. And didn't they smell the body? Goodness gracious people!

  • daisymom Jun 8, 2009

    I am with JAT. I want to hear the other side of the story.

  • pebbles262004 Jun 8, 2009

    Please people tell me how someone can commit suicide and there autoposy report show that she was beat to death. I mena come on..Think a little before you make accusations

  • JAT Jun 8, 2009

    no, wp, I don't think the Marines would. They didn't when they had him the first time; they let him get away.

  • JAT Jun 8, 2009

    djo - Dr. Tiller would have not performed an abortion on this woman because neither her life nor the baby's life was in danger. I really think your remarks were out of line.

    This guy needs to be off the street. He can apparently kill, maim, burn, and bury a woman and a baby (thinking that it was his child), lie to his wife, and get her to go along with him. In the 70's, we put Charles Manson away for that!

  • JAT Jun 8, 2009

    I can't wait to hear the other side of the story as to how her body got buried and burned in his backyard. That one should be interesting!