Local News

Authorities: Fugitive's Wife Not Home When Marine Killed

Posted January 18, 2008 7:45 a.m. EST
Updated January 18, 2008 6:55 p.m. EST

— Onslow County authorities said Friday they don't believe the wife of a Camp Lejeune Marine accused of killing a comrade was home at the time of the slaying.

Cpl. Cesar Laurean, the subject of an international manhunt, has been charged with murder in the death of Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach. Her burned remains were found a week ago in a shallow grave in Laurean's back yard.

The hunt for Laurean is expected to intensify this weekend as national TV show “America’s Most Wanted” profiles the case. He is already featured on the show’s Web site.

A day before he was named a suspect in Lauterbach's death, Laurean told his wife he had buried her body out of fear after she had committed suicide in their home, according to a search warrant.

Christina Laurean waited until after her husband fled a week ago to disclose the information to authorities. She also delivered a note from him to investigators, which led to the discovery of Lauterbach's body.

Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown said Friday that Christina Laurean told investigators she was at a Christmas party when Lauterbach was killed on Dec. 14.

"We don't have any information right now to believe that she was there when this murder occurred," said Capt. Rick Sutherland, of the Onslow County Sheriff's Office.

In an interview with CBS News this week, Christina Laurean's father said his daughter had told him she was at work when Lauterbach was killed.

Authorities have described Christina Laurean as a cooperating witness and said they have no plans to charge her.

Lauterbach last May accused Cesar Laurean of raping her. Her disappearance a month ago came not long after she met with military prosecutors to discuss the rape allegation.

She was due to give birth in February, and military investigators said they wanted to obtain DNA evidence from the child before proceeding with the rape case.

Onslow County authorities said blood spatters inside the Laurean home and garage showed Lauterbach was beaten to death inside. Someone tried to clean up the blood, including painting over it, authorities said.

A neighbor said Christina Laurean talked about repainting several rooms around the same time. Neighbors also said they saw Cesar Laurean driving Lauterbach's car after Dec. 14.

Onslow County authorities on Friday released a photo taken at an automated teller machine in Jacksonville. The photo shows a man who used Lauterbach's ATM card to withdraw money on Christmas Eve, and investigators said they believe the man is Laurean.

The Laureans continued living in the home for nearly a month after Lauterbach's slaying, but Sutherland said Friday it's difficult to say whether Christina Laurean would have noticed any evidence of the crime.

"My wife and I can look at two different things and see two different things because of my training and experience. So, it's absolutely impossible for me to speculate what anybody else would have seen walk through the same crime seen that I walked through," he said.

Christina Laurean told authorities she believed her husband would head to Mexico if he was in trouble. Court documents filed by the FBI this week indicate Cesar Laurean told members of his Marine Corps unit that he would flee to Mexico if it appeared he would be found guilty of rape.

Cesar Laurean is a native of Mexico. He became a U.S. citizen and was living in Las Vegas before enlisting in 2004.

FBI agents are working with Mexican authorities to determine if he is in that country. A $25,000 reward has been posted for information leading to his capture.

Cesar Laurean's pickup truck was located Tuesday at a motel near Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Authorities said they had recovered forensic evidence from the truck that would assist in the investigation.

An item that “may have been used" in Lauterbach's death was turned over to investigators last week by an unidentified witness, but authorities haven't disclosed what it is. The item is being analyzed by the State Bureau of Investigation Crime Laboratory in Raleigh.