JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — A day before he was named a suspect in the death of the pregnant Camp Lejeune Marine he is accused of raping, Cpl. Cesar Armando Laurean told his wife he had buried her body out of fear, according to a search warrant returned Thursday.
Christina Laurean told Onslow County sheriff's investigators she had that conversation with her husband on Jan. 10 while driving to meet Jacksonville attorney Mark Raynor, the affidavit said.
Cesar Laurean, 21, also told her that Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach showed up at his home on Dec. 15 to tell him she was leaving Jacksonville and demanded money from Laurean. The two then went to a bus station where he helped her buy a ticket to El Paso, Texas, the warrant said.
Christina Laurean told Onslow County sheriff's detective John Dubois that a disoriented and agitated Lauterbach returned to Cesar Laurean's house later that night and told him that "her plan had failed, that an argument ensued" and that she produced a knife and killed herself by slitting her throat.
"He became scared, took her body to a wooded area adjacent to his residence, and buried her. He obtained legal counsel and explained the facts to them. He was told that he was facing the death penalty," Dubois wrote.
Capt. Rick Sutherland, with the Onslow County Sheriff's Office, said Thursday that investigators believe Cesar Lauren killed Lauterbach, 20, on Dec. 14, despite the date in the warrant and his claims she committed suicide. Blood evidence inside his home pointed to a violent crime, authorities said.
The warrant, however, doesn't say why Christina Laurean waited almost a day before going to authorities. The sheriff's office has described her as cooperating witness. Sutherland said Thursday authorities have no plans to charge her.
When contacted by WRAL on Thursday, she declined to comment.
Possible Weapon Recovered
Officials also said Thursday that they had recovered an item that “may have been used" in Lauterbach's death, although they have not disclosed what it is. A witness turned in the item last week, officials said, and it “is consistent with what the medical examiner believes is the cause of death.”
The item is being analyzed by the State Bureau of Investigation Crime Laboratory in Raleigh.
Lauterbach disappeared in December, not long after she met with military prosecutors to talk about the rape allegation. She was due to give birth in February.
Marine officials have said they attempted to find her after she failed to report to work on Dec. 17, but had evidence – including a note left for her roommate in which she wrote she was tired of the Marine Corps lifestyle – that led them to believe she left on her own.
Her burned remains were found last weekend in a fire pit in Laurean's back yard in Jacksonville. An autopsy showed she died of blunt force trauma to the head, authorities said.
The exam failed to answer all the questions detectives have about Lauterbach's death, officials said, including whether she gave birth before her death and of the identity of the father.
Christina Laurean also told investigators, according to Thursday's warrant, that her husband revealed to her in May that he was accused of raping Lauterbach. She said he denied the allegation and also denied in July that Lauterbach was carrying his child.
Suspect Search Focuses on Mexico
A global manhunt has been ongoing since Friday for Laurean, and authorities have posted a $25,000 reward for his capture.
Court documents filed by the FBI this week indicate he told members of his Marine Corps unit he would flee to Mexico if it appeared he would be found guilty of rape. Laurean's wife also told authorities she believed he would head to Mexico if he was in trouble.
In a letter Thursday, Rep. Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., urged Mexico President Felipe Calderon to use all means necessary to assist U.S. authorities in capturing Laurean.
"I strongly urge you to use whatever resources available to you to locate and apprehend Laurean as quickly as possible," Jones said.
Should Laurean be apprehended in Mexico, Onslow County District Attorney Dewey Hudson would have to submit the case and evidence to Mexican authorities before they would extradite him.
"It's very difficult, because, as you know, this is still an ongoing investigation," Hudson said. "There are more questions than answers, as you know. There are more twists and turns in this case than there are roller coasters at the State Fair."
Hudson and military prosecutors at Camp Lejeune would also have to ensure Laurean would not face the death penalty before Mexican authorities agree to extradite him.
"I'm very opposed to that. This murder occurred in Onslow County," he said. "We have laws in our state and why another country could tell me what the results should be in this case, it's not something that I like."