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Sheriff Confirms Possible Sighting of Marine Slaying Suspect in Louisiana

Posted January 13, 2008

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— North Carolina officials confirmed that the suspect in the slaying of a 20-year-old pregnant Marine might have been sighted in Shreveport, La., on Saturday night.

The Associated Press reported early Saturday afternoon that Marine Cpl. Cesar Armando Laurean was spotted in Shreveport, La., around 10 p.m. Saturday, possibly heading to Texas. Shreveport police Chief Henry Whitehorn Sr. said several passengers reported to federal authorities that they saw Laurean getting on or off a Greyhound bus.

Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown said his agency – which charged Laurean with the murder of Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach – confirmed that a possible sighting had taken place in Shreveport. He would not say that authorities had confidently identified the man sighted as Laurean.

"It'd be foolish for me to say where he's at unless we've got him chained," Brown said.

Laurean, 21, was described as a white man, 5 feet, 9 inches tall and 160 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. He was believed to have left his home driving a black 2004 Quad Cab Dodge pickup with North Carolina license plate TRR-1522.

Brown did not say if that vehicle had been spotted Saturday, but said the man sighted was not wearing a disguise. The Onslow sheriff would not comment on any contacts Laurean might have.

The Shreveport Police Department ordered all its officers to be on the lookout for Laurean, but no further sightings have been reported.

Earlier Sunday, Brown said his office received news around midnight that a member of the general public had spotted Laurean in a "transit station ... two or three states away from North Carolina." Brown did not specify in which state the sighting occurred.

The witness spent some time with the suspect and said Laurean appeared to be traveling alone, Brown said, adding that he hoped Laurean would soon be in custody.

Brown urged members of the public not to try to detain Laurean whom he described as having "a real hideous behavior about him." Based on the nature of the slaying, Laurean "could be a dangerous and violent person if he was put in a corner," the Onslow County sheriff said.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation issued an arrest warrant against Laurean for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution on Sunday, said FBI officials in Charlotte. Bureau spokesman Newsom Summerlin said investigators do not have any reason to believe that Laurean has fled the country, although that remains a possibility.

The bus Laurean was riding was headed to Texas, Brown said, but authorities yet do not know if he continued along that route.

"Nowadays, with international travel, you just never know where a fugitive is going to end up," Summerlin said. "There is always the possibility that they could flee internationally."

An Onslow County sheriff's deputy suggested authorities might only be a couple hours behind Laurean, but Brown said he could not promise a specific time line.

"I can't promise that he'll be here tonight, but I do feel comfortable that his vacation will be short," Brown said. "His travel may be long, but we'll make sure he returns soon."

Brown expressed confidence that law enforcement agents could ensure safety if Laurean were caught in a public place.

Laurean lived in Jacksonville while stationed at Camp Lejeune but is from Clark County, Nev.

Shreveport is roughly 950 miles southwest of Jacksonville, two dozen miles from the Texas border and three hours east of Dallas.

Laurean disappeared from his house around 4:30 a.m. Friday after authorities intensified their search for Lauterbach. On Saturday, Brown said someone used Lauterbach's ATM card in a North Carolina city.

The Marine Corps, U.S. Marshals, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Naval Criminal Investigative Service and State Bureau of Investigation were assisting in the search, Brown said.

"We've got about every law enforcement agency that represents the American people involved in this manhunt," he said.

Lauterbach disappeared sometime after Dec. 14, not long after she met with military prosecutors to talk about moving forward with her  allegations that Laurean raped her. She first reported those charges against him to military officials in April.

Late last week, local authorities said they had indications the two had a "friendly relationship" and did not consider him a flight risk. Before he fled, Laurean refused to talk to the Onslow County Sheriff's Office, per his attorneys' advice. He left without telling his attorneys.

Lauterbach's uncle, Pete Stenier, denied that any kind of relationship existed between the two. Her attacker was the father of her child, Steiner said.

Lauterbach's relatives questioned whether military authorities made enough effort to protect her. Steiner said Lauterbach – stung by harassment that eventually forced her to move off base – decided to drop the case the week before she disappeared.

Paul Chiccarelli, the special agent in charge of NCIS at Camp Lejeune, said Marine commanders submitted requests in October to send the case to the military's version of a grand jury. A military protective order was automatically issued in May and renewed three times.

Lauterbach and Laurean served as personnel clerks in the same unit of the II Marine Expeditionary Force.

One of Lauterbach's roommates, Melinda Artzer, a former Marine, said Lauterbach confided in her about the alleged rape.

"She proceeded to tell me that she came home one night," Artzer said. "She was walking ... in the barracks parking lot, towards the barracks, and someone came out of the dark and attacked her."

Officials with the Women Veterans of America organization said the case of Lauterbach could create an impediment for female military personnel reporting future sexual attacks within the ranks.

"Unfortunately, women in today's military who have been sexually assaulted now have an added pressure to not go forth to report these crimes," Colleen Mussolino, the group's national commander, said in a release. "Their fears have been reinforced by today's horrendous events (which) have re-traumatized them."

Laurean's wife, Christina – whom Brown described as cooperative – turned a note left by her husband into the sheriff's office at 8 a.m. Friday. In the note, Laurean claimed Lauterbach had committed suicide in his home and then he buried her body in the back yard.

On Saturday, her burnt remains and those of her unborn child were excavated from a fire pit in Laurean's backyard.

"As well as I could see, the body was much charred," Brown said. "One of the things that will probably stick with me for a long time, and forever, is that little hand, the way those fingers were turned, that had been burned off the arm.

"That is bizarre. That is tragic. And it's disgusting."


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  • zoocrew1 Jan 14, 2008

    i saw on another story on wral that they didnt think this guy was a flight risk. WHAT!!!! you cant be serious. HES A MARINE. THEY DONT PLAN. THEY IMPROVISE.

  • zoocrew1 Jan 14, 2008

    leo-nc i would chase him. if anyone deserved to be chased its him

  • FE Jan 13, 2008

    RKBA - You are SEVERELY distorting my statement, especially with the completely absurd "really wanted it" comment you tossed out.

    My point is that there may well be more to this original story than has yet come's as simple as that.

    The woman DID have other choices. Why she did not make them is unknown to me....and I would also assume unknown to you.

    Along a similar line, can you REALLY determine whether the encounter was a single event, rape or not, versus a continuing relationship? I didn't think so.....


  • IForgot Jan 13, 2008

    NC won't do anything to him.....he ought to come back here since we have no justice system anyways.......

  • thinkfirsttypelater Jan 13, 2008

    Perhaps the folks who are trying to call this sheriff out for some imperceptible error should redirect their efforts toward the investigators working for the USMC, who appear to have done next to nothing to help this woman for the past nine months. Everything about this case makes me sick.

  • Sweet Butterfly Kisses Jan 13, 2008

    Proper Action should have been taken immediately! NOW_ITS A "CAT_N_MOUSE GAME! PRAYERS' FOR "MOM&BABY"; MAY THEY REST IN PEACE!

  • jaynet Jan 13, 2008

    To add to whogetsjustice list of stupidity......Maria had purchased a bus ticket to Texas, and based on the possible sighting it appears Laurean may be headed to Texas????? Does he not even have a brain in his head???? Based on all his stupid-human tricks you can forget about him being the dimmest lightbulb in the pack, I think the filament was totally left out of his bulb!

  • bettyboopr2 Jan 13, 2008

    The law in NC needs to change so that this animal will be charged with 2 murders, not just one. That baby was a living being when it was murdered and you know it had to suffer just as much as it's mother. I hope this man rots in hell.

  • surfergirl07 Jan 13, 2008

    The sheriff gave more detail that I would have liked concerning the victim and her unborn child. Do we really need to know about the child's hand? I'm sorry that the sheriff says that this image will stay with him for the rest of his life. He chose to be sheriff and that's a tough job. However, I did not choose to be sheriff and I did not expect to hear such gruesome details. Sheriff, show a little respect and a little professionalism. These are real people here, not actors on CSI.

  • WRALSUCKS Jan 13, 2008

    "I DO maintain my position that a "rape victim" involving a known assailant should have done more after THAT initial event, e.g. report the rape at that time and/or terminate any possible pregnancy"

    Why is it that YOU think you know what's best for another individual in this difficult position?

    Why do you put the term rape victim, in quotes? Do you know something the rest of us don't, or do you somehow believe that women that are raped really wanted it?