Local News

Sheriff: Laurean could return to N.C. next week

Posted September 11, 2008 4:05 p.m. EDT
Updated September 11, 2008 9:41 p.m. EDT

— A judge in Mexico has ruled that a Camp Lejeune Marine charged with killing a pregnant comrade will be extradited to North Carolina as early as next week, the Onslow County Sheriff's Office said Thursday.

Cpl. Cesar Laurean faces first-degree murder in the December death of Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, whose charred remains were found in a shallow grave behind Laurean's Jacksonville home in January. She was seven months' pregnant at the time of her death.

Laurean fled Jacksonville on Jan. 11, hours before Lauterbach's body was found, and left behind a note in which he claimed she had committed suicide and that he had buried her out of fear.

An autopsy later determined that Lauterbach had been beaten to death, and authorities said they found traces of blood inside Laurean's home.

Laurean was arrested in April in Tacambaro Michoacan, a small town in western Mexico, after an international manhunt. Federal authorities will transport Laurean to the Onslow County Jail.

"I think the statement by the sheriff's office that Laurean will be home in a week is a little premature," his attorney, Dick McNeil, said Thursday afternoon. "The defendant has a 15-day window to make a response or appeal the judge's ruling."

However, McNeil, who said he spoke with Laurean Wednesday evening, could not say for certain whether his client will appeal or fight extradition.

Lauterbach had accused Laurean of raping her a year ago. Military authorities could never corroborate her allegations, but they planned to pursue hearings that could have led to charges against Laurean.

McNeil said he, Laurean and Laurean's attorney in Mexico still question what, if any, role the military will play in the case. They want to know if the Marine Corps is planning a trial before making any final decisions.

For decades, Mexico has resisted extraditing people to the U.S. if they could face capital punishment.

Onslow County District Attorney Dewey Hudson has said he "reluctantly" agreed not to seek the death penalty against Laurean if he was apprehended in Mexico.