Local News

Candlelight Vigil Held for Lauterbach, Unborn Child

Posted January 18, 2008 10:32 p.m. EST
Updated January 19, 2008 8:50 a.m. EST

— More than 300 people gathered Friday night to remember Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, the 20-year-old pregnant Marine whom authorities believe died at the hands of a comrade whom she had accused of rape.

The crowd gathered at Northeast Creek Park for a candlelight vigil in memory of Lauterbach, whose remains, along with those of her unborn baby, were found last week in a shallow pit in the back yard of Cpl. Cesar Armando Laurean.

"It truly touches me to see that so many people cared about this young woman," said Cristal Romeo, 21, of Jacksonville, who organized the vigil.

Among those who attended was Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown.

"The stress to find her and her unborn baby is stress I have not felt in a long time," Brown said. "It is very tragic and I was very much hoping to announce that she had been seen alive on the first day, but six hours later, we had the terrible discovery of her death."

Those who attended the 45-minute ceremony could sign a banner for Lauterbach at the entrance to the baseball field at the park. The banner, and the gifts left during the vigil, will be sent to Lauterbach's family in Ohio.

Amanda Smith said her husband was in Lauterbach's unit and had met her a few times.

"I have been in Jacksonville for two years, and this is a terribly tragedy," Smith said. "I can't believe that Marines can do this to each other."

Authorities say Lauterbach died of blunt force trauma to the head around Dec. 15 and are searching for Laurean, 21, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Mexico. They believe he is in Mexico, hiding from an arrest warrant that charges him with Lauterbach's death.

Also Friday, Onslow County sheriff's investigators released a photo they believe shows Laurean using Lauterbach's ATM card. Investigators had earlier said that an unidentified man had used Lauterbach's ATM card on Dec. 24.

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.

The show released surveillance video from the sheriff's office Friday that shows Laurean and a friend shopping at a Lowe's home improvement store. Investigators say he bought supplies, including paint, concrete blocks and a wheel barrel two days after Lauterbach was killed.