National News

Search for Marine Suspect Expands

Posted January 14, 2008
Updated January 15, 2008

— Federal authorities plan to post billboards nationwide with the picture of a Marine wanted in the slaying of a pregnant colleague, and the sheriff announced a $25,000 reward Monday for information leading to his arrest.

Authorities are looking for Marine Cpl. Cesar Armando Laurean, wanted in the death of Marine Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, who had accused him of rape. FBI officials said the first billboards with Laurean's photo would appear in Tampa, Fla., Columbus, Ohio, and Las Vegas.

"The search for Laurean is Earthwide," Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown said at a news conference.

Authorities recovered what they believe to be the burned remains of Lauterbach and her fetus from a fire pit in Laurean's backyard over the weekend. Detectives believe Laurean, 21, of the Las Vegas area, fled Jacksonville before dawn Friday, and have said he left behind a note in which he admitted burying her body but claimed she cut her own throat in a suicide.

Brown, who has rejected the idea that Lauterbach committed suicide, said late Monday that authorities had received a preliminary autopsy report on the remains, but he declined to discuss details, other than to say a gun was not used.

FBI spokesman Newsom Summerlin said investigators have no reason to believe Laurean has fled the country, but that it is possible.

Brown also said Monday that an ATM card belonging to Lauterbach was found Saturday in Durham. A jogger passing by a Greyhound Bus station downtown noticed it in the bushes and turned it over to Durham police.

Police said it was unlikely the card was used at the bus station because the card reader there has been out of operation for several days.

Investigators remain unsure of the accuracy of witness reports placing Laurean at a bus depot in Shreveport, La., on Saturday night, Brown said. The witnesses were unclear whether the man believed to be Laurean boarded a bus that was headed to Texas or left the station, he said.

Still, Brown confidently predicted that Laurean would be caught.

"You're never gone for good when law enforcement is after you," he said. "It may be two days or two weeks, 10 days or 10 years, but you're never gone for good."

North Carolina is one of 15 states without a fetal homicide law, but Onslow County District Attorney Dewey Hudson said he has no plans to step aside in favor of a military prosecution. Georgetown University law professor Gary Solis said local authorities have primary jurisdiction in the case.

"They have the crime scene and they have the physical evidence," Solis said. "The military would have secondary jurisdiction if the DA decided not to pursue the case."

That makes it unlikely that Laurean would be prosecuted under the federal fetal homicide law passed in 2004 during the height of attention to the California trial of Scott Peterson, who was accused of murdering his pregnant wife, Laci.

The federal law makes it a crime to harm a fetus during an assault on a pregnant woman, but the pro-life activists who pushed for it believe it has never been used - in part because murder cases are typically prosecuted in state courts.

The military could technically seek charges at the same time as civilian authorities, said Scott Silliman, a former military lawyer who is now director of the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security at Duke University. But a joint prosecution is not recommended by the military's manual for courts martial, Silliman said.

"As a matter of law, the military could prosecute him separately," Silliman said. "But as a matter of policy, it rarely happens and only in a very unusual set of circumstances."

In Lauterbach's hometown near Dayton, Ohio, hundreds of friends and neighbors offered prayers for her Monday evening. Relatives filed into a church for a prayer service and sat in the front row.

"This evening, we are suffering," the Rev. Francis Keferl told a spillover crowd of more than 800 at St. Christopher Catholic Church.

Lauterbach's mother, Mary, dabbed at her eyes with a tissue during the 40-minute service. A congregant gave her a pink rose.

Members of the congregation will remember Lauterbach for her strength, vitality, independent spirit, athletic talents and service as a Marine, said Elise Wahle, youth ministry coordinator for the church.

Lauterbach's father, Victor Lauterbach, is an Air Force Reserve master sergeant in the 87th Aerial Port Squadron, which is part of the 445th Airlift Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

"Her goal was to be a Marine and wear the uniform," said neighbor Kent Zimmerman.


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  • jackadoo Jan 15, 2008

    allison...9:27 post was a good one. I'm curious about the suspects big black bad truck (full sized crew cab) with license plat #.... Seems like they could locate that based on the Sheriffs description of a national search. He's probably in Mexico. Why he was not being watched will end up being an expensive mistake regardless.

  • ratherbnnc Jan 15, 2008

    Are some of you people for real? I dont blame the Sheriff. Why should he be badgered by the likes of Nancy (who cares about her twins) Grace. Seems that Nancy doesnt understand that the Sheriff had nothing to do with the rape allegations. UNDERSTAND PEOPLE. This offense occured while she was living ON BASE. Therefore, it is a Marine and NCIS investigation ( NOT ONSLOW COUNTY). The Sheriff has no jurisdiction and had NONE. Now i hope you people understand jurisdictional authority. Why dont some of you READ all the information.

  • What Happened Jan 15, 2008

    I saw Nancy Grace last night also - I have to disagree with you about the sheriff. Nancy was being her usual arrogant self, and kept asking him why they hadn't investigated the rape allegations. Well, duh... How many ways and how many times does he have to explain the local authorities have NO JURISDICTION in that matter!!! That allegedly occurred ON BASE, and was likely never even reported to the local police.

    And if you watch Nancy Grace tonight, whoever her guest is, if she doesn't 100% agree with them, she'll be the same way. She'll interrupt them, cut them off, ask the same daggum question a dozen different times, hoping she'll eventually get the answer she WANTS to hear. And if the guest starts to even slightly get the "upper hand", she'll cut them off completely or even go to commercial.

  • Space Mountain Jan 15, 2008

    Patriot, I swear I read a story on here that they recently began to be friends again and she dropped the charges. Now, I don't know why. Maybe because she made it up because he didn't leave his wife for her, or maybe just for the sake of the baby. But I know I read that in a story on WRAL when she was missing.

  • tank1234 Jan 15, 2008


  • tank1234 Jan 15, 2008

    I have a great respect for the Marines. But, they did nothing
    to protect this woman and her unborn child. I think they should
    be ashamed.

  • Patriot1 Jan 15, 2008

    Nancy Grace tore up the sheriff last night. Found out something interesting. ITs never been said that she dropped the charges. Why do you think they keep saying that its a ongoing investigation and that she was going to testify. The protective order actually ran out in Sept. In the military protective order, Laurean is forbidden from contacting Lauterbach in any manner, including through a third party, and ordered to stay at least 1,000 feet from her. So how is it that people speculated that they carryed on a freindly relationship

  • allison842 Jan 15, 2008

    Okay, I don't normally watch this show, but did ANYBODY else see Barney Fife Brown on Nancy Grace last night?! It was an embarrassment. The man is a down-home member of the good-ol-boys' club if I ever saw one, and he could barely get a sentence out. "Miss Nancy" (as he called her) would ask him a very simple, direct question, and not only would he NOT answer it, he would take 5 minutes to talk about something else while actually saying nothing. He came on there on the defensive, saying he wasn't going to let Nancy Grace and her "professionals" tell him he'd done anything wrong in the investigation. She wasn't trying to say that; she was just trying to get him to answer a couple of questions, which he never really did.

    It was truly very strange. I don't want that man representing the state of North Carolina, especially if he's going to go up there and act like he's scared she's going to attack him. No one else got to speak on the show because Brown was stumbling all over his words.

  • lilwil Jan 15, 2008

    Someone is helping this man. I don't know all the details of what happened, but why on earth would you bury someone in your own backyard.

    I hate two lives were destroyed. He needs to turn himself in.

  • ladypedwards Jan 15, 2008

    can someone please write that mans notes before he makes another speech,earth wide? you have got to be joking.he is stumbling over those news confrences as if he is unsure he has his facts togeather,it looks a little bad someone help him with his speech.