Local News

FBI, Mexican Police Arrest Suspect in Slaying of Marine

Posted April 10, 2008 8:33 p.m. EDT
Updated April 11, 2008 5:19 a.m. EDT

— A Marine personnel clerk wanted for the brutal slaying of a pregnant colleague who had accused him of rape was arrested in Mexico, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said late Thursday.

The FBI's office in Charlotte said special agents and Mexican authorities arrested Marine Cpl. Cesar Laurean around 7 p.m. after a three-month international manhunt. Laurean is charged with murder in the death of Marine Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach.

"Laurean's swift arrest in Mexico was due to the diligence and dedication of the Mexican government and our law enforcement partners," Nathan Gray, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Charlotte office, said in a statement.

The FBI said Laurean is still in Mexico and is awaiting extradition to the U.S.

Magdalena Guzman, a spokeswoman for the Michoacan, Mexico, state prosecutors office, said Mexican police detained Laurean on a street in the small town of Tacambaro, Michoacan. Police said Laurean matched a description circulated by U.S. authorities, Guzman said.

"He was walking down the street. He did not resist," said FBI spokeswoman Amy Thoreson. "We had FBI agents, NCIS agents as well as the Mexican authorities (there) at the time."

"This was truly an international effort, and we will do all we can to ensure Laurean is brought back to Onslow County as quickly as possible to answer the charges against him," Gray said.

Onslow County District Attorney Dewey Hudson immediately cautioned, however, that "it could be a year or two" for authorities to bring Laurean back to North Carolina if he decides to fight the extradition process.

"The extradition process is one where you have a right to appeal," Hudson told The Associated Press. "I have no idea whether he would waive extradition."

The Marines first began searching for Lauterbach, 20, on Dec. 17, after she failed to show up for work. Local authorities took up the case Dec. 19 after her mother reported her missing. Three weeks later, officials found Lauterbach's burned remains in a fire pit in Laurean's back yard near Camp Lejeune.

Lauterbach had earlier accused Laurean of rape.

Laurean fled Onslow County on Jan. 11 – the day before Lauterbach's remains were uncovered.

Laurean left a note for his wife, Christina, that said Lauterbach slit her own throat with a knife and he buried her in the woods near their home.

An autopsy found that Lauterbach died of blunt force trauma to the head.

An Onslow County grand jury on Jan. 24 indicted Laurean on chargers of first-degree murder, financial card theft, attempted financial card fraud, fraud and robbery with a dangerous weapon.

Mexican officials issued a warrant for Laurean's arrest after receiving assurances that U.S. prosecutors would not pursue the death penalty.

Mexico has for decades resisted extraditing people to the U.S. if they could face capital punishment. Hudson said he had "reluctantly" agreed not to seek the death penalty against Laurean if was apprehended in Mexico.

Laurean was born in Guadalajara before moving to the U.S. and becoming an American citizen.

A news conference on Laurean's capture is scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday at the Onslow County Sheriff's Office in Jacksonville. Stay with WRAL and WRAL.com for updates on this developing story.