Suspect in Slain Marine Case Seen in Louisiana
Posted January 13, 2008 5:26 a.m. EST
Jacksonville — The key suspect in the brutal slaying of a 20-year-old pregnant Marine was spotted in Louisiana, authorities said Sunday as federal officials issued a fugitive warrant for his arrest.
"It was confirmed that the individual bought a ticket out of Dallas, Texas, enroute to the Shreveport area,” said Shreveport police chief Charlie Caldwell.
Marine Cpl. Cesar Armando Laurean was seen at a Greyhound bus station in Shreveport on Saturday night by several fellow passengers, said Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown.
"The bus was stopped and searched and found nothing of the individual in the bus at that time,” Caldwell said.
On Saturday, authorities said they recovered what they believe to be the burned remains of Marine Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach and her unborn child from a fire pit in Laurean's backyard, where they suspect he burned and buried her body. Those remains have been sent to the state medical examiner's office in Chapel Hill for a formal identification.
That same day, authorities issued a murder warrant for Laurean, 21, of the Las Vegas area. They believe he fled Jacksonville before dawn Friday after leaving behind a note in which he admitted burying her body but claimed Lauterbach cut her own throat in a suicide.
The federal warrant announced Sunday charges Laurean with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, said FBI officials in Charlotte. Bureau spokesman Newsom Summerlin said that while investigators don't have any reason to believe he's fled the country, that remains a possibility.
"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."
Lauterbach had disappeared sometime after Dec. 14, not long after she met with military prosecutors to talk about her April allegation that Laurean raped her. Naval investigators said Saturday the rape case was progressing and Laurean was under a protective order to stay away from Lauterbach.
USMC public affairs officer Curtis Hill issued a statement Sunday night about the Lauterbach investigation.
"We understand the press and public desire to know what happened, but [we] want to ensure whatever information we release is accurate and that our release of information would not adversely impact any ongoing investigation and/or future judicial proceeding," Hill said.
Along with the FBI, Brown said federal Marshals, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation are hunting for Laurean. Sheriff's investigators at the scene are spending much of their time on developing evidence, he said.
"While finding him is a main concern, the major concern is that we continue the investigation to clearly find the truth in what happened," he said.
Brown has challenged Laurean's assertion Lauterbach killed herself, citing what he described as evidence of a violent confrontation inside Laurean's home - which he said left blood spatters on the ceiling and a massive amount of blood on the wall.
Authorities received Laurean's note about the purported suicide from Laurean's wife, whom Brown has said is cooperating with authorities. Her family has described her as "heartbroken."
Lauterbach's mother reported her daughter missing Dec. 19. She had been placed on "unauthorized absence" status by the Marine Corps and was listed that day in a national law enforcement database as a "missing person at risk."
Naval investigators said authorities didn't consider Laurean a threat to Lauterbach, or later a flight risk, because they had indications the pair were on friendly terms. Laurean later refused to meet with investigators and left town without telling his lawyers where he was going.
"We're doing everything we can to make sure he doesn't go any further than where he's at," Brown said.
The FBI said Laurean could be using the names Cesar Sanchez and Cesar Gudino. He is believed to be driving a black 2004 quad cab Dodge pickup with North Carolina tags TRR-1522.