Local News

Pregnant Marine's Slaying Draws Support for Fetal Homicide Law

Posted January 21, 2008 5:19 p.m. EST
Updated January 21, 2008 7:36 p.m. EST

— The slaying of pregnant Camp Lejeune Marine Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach has sparked increased support for a state law that would protect unborn children.

Current North Carolina law does not consider the death of an unborn child in a murder case to be a separate homicide.

"A public outcry is really about the only way we have to get these things done," said Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake County, a co-sponsor of one of two fetal homicide bills – Senate Bill 295 and House Bill 263 – that have stalled in committees in the General Assembly.

On Jan. 11, Lauterbach's charred remains were found in a backyard pit at the home of a fellow Marine, Cpl. Cesar Laurean. Investigators described the remains of her unborn child as tragic and disgusting.

"The fetus was developed enough that the little hand was about the size of my thumb," Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown said. "The little fingers were rolled up."

When the bills were introduced, various women's rights and pro-choice groups spoke against it. Opponents said they worry that a pregnant woman could be held responsible if she doesn't protect her fetus from an abuser. Others argue the bill could step on the abortion debate.

"Some people think it might impact a woman's right to choose, which it absolutely does not," Hunt said.

Supporters believe that is why it has been difficult to get a vote on the bills. The measures could come up again in this year's legislative session.

Lauterbach's slaying is not the first killing involving a pregnant woman that has sparked debate about the state's not having a fetal homicide law.

Last summer, the slaying of Jenna Nielsen in Raleigh also raised the matter. She was killed while delivering newspapers to a convenience store.

Authorities say Lauterbach died of blunt force trauma to the head around Dec. 15, and they are searching for Laurean, 21, a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Mexico.

They have said they believe he is in Mexico, hiding from an arrest warrant that charges him with Lauterbach's death.