Warrants: Fugitive Marine, wife were in close contact
Posted May 28, 2008 3:46 p.m. EDT
Updated May 28, 2008 7:01 p.m. EDT
Jacksonville, N.C. — A Camp Lejeune Marine indicted in the death of a pregnant comrade frequently communicated with his wife during his three months on the run, according to search warrants released Wednesday.
Cpl. Cesar Laurean is charged with murder in the December death of Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, whose charred remains were found buried in his back yard in January.
Laurean, 21, fled Jacksonville on Jan. 11, hours before Lauterbach's remains were discovered. Mexican authorities arrested him on April 10 in the small town of Tacambaro, which is between Mexico City and Guadalajara.
An Onslow County judge on Wednesday unsealed more than 200 pages of search warrants in the case that provide details about the investigation of Lauterbach's death and the search for Laurean.
Investigators searched Yahoo e-mail accounts belonging to Laurean's wife, Christina, and her sister, Amber Emrick, logs for a MySpace page used by Christina Laurean and an Adult Friend Finder account used by Cesar Laurean, according to search warrants.
The warrants state authorities were trying to find evidence related to obstruction of justice, accessory after the fact of a homicide or unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.
Onslow County authorities have said that Christina Laurean, an active-duty Marine, has cooperated with their investigation and that they couldn't charge her for simply communicating with her fugitive husband.
"There were obviously some times that she had information that she could have called us before we found out. When we did call her when we found out, she quickly answered our questions," said Capt. Rick Sutherland of the Onslow County Sheriff's Office. "We asked her to contact us if she heard from him. When we specifically asked her about specific communication, she did not lie to us."
One warrant stated that Christina Laurean opened a bank account after her husband fled and transferred money into it. He did access other personal and joint bank accounts online from Mexico, the warrants said, but authorities said they had no evidence that she provided money to him during his flight.
Detectives have said they believe Cesar Laurean killed Lauterbach, 20, who was eight months pregnant, on Dec. 14 after forcing her to remove money from her bank account.
She had accused him of rape last spring. He denied the charge, but Camp Lejeune officials were intent on taking the case to a hearing that could have led to a trial.
The Marines first began searching for Lauterbach 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, authorities found the burned remains of Lauterbach and her unborn child in a fire pit in the Laureans' back yard near Camp Lejeune.
Cesar Laurean left a note for his wife 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.
A judge refused to unseal letters left by Cesar Laurean for his wife, saying they might be excluded as evidence at trial because they would be considered spousal communication.
A Chevy Trailblazer used by the Laureans was searched to determine if it was used to transport Lauterbach's body after her slaying, according to one warrant.
Investigators reviewed files on Cesar Laurean's home computer and found he researched how to buy land and get a job in Mexico, especially in an Americanized area near Guadalajara, before he fled Jacksonville. He also followed media accounts of Lauterbach's disappearance online, according to the warrants.
"There are some indicators that there was some planning after the fact.," Sutherland said. "As to whether or not the crime itself of murder was spontaneous or not is something I just can't discuss right now."
Christina Laurean accessed her husband's Adult Friend Finder account on Jan. 21 and was in contact with him from at least Feb. 10 until he was captured, investigators said. She used e-mails and text messages and sometimes had her sister act as a go-between, the warrants state.
When asked about the communications, she told investigators Cesar Laurean was living on a ranch in Guadalajara and had visited the beach and other locations in Mexico while on the run. He was planning to visit his parents in Las Vegas, she said.
The searches of the e-mail accounts and other information on Emrick's computer helped federal and Onslow County authorities narrow their search for Cesar Laurean and ultimately led to his capture, investigators said.
An Onslow County grand jury indicted him on chargers of first-degree murder, financial card theft, attempted financial card fraud, fraud and robbery with a dangerous weapon.
The case is wending its way through the extradition process, and it's unclear when he will return to the U.S. Sutherland said investigators have sent a complete case file to Mexican authorities to assist with the process.
Prosecutors already have said they won't seek the death penalty against him in the case, a concession they had to make to ensure Mexican authorities would turn him over. Mexico has for decades resisted extraditing people to the U.S. if they could face capital punishment.