Local News

Accused Marine's wife visiting him in Mexican jail

Posted November 6, 2008 5:40 a.m. EST
Updated November 6, 2008 5:05 p.m. EST

— The wife of a Camp Lejeune Marine charged with killing a pregnant comrade has gone to Mexico to visit her husband at the jail where he is fighting extradition to the U.S., authorities said Thursday.

Onslow County District Attorney Dewey Hudson said he was unsure whether Lance Cpl. Christina Laurean's visit with Cpl. Cesar Laurean would impact his case.

Cesar Laurean is charged with first-degree murder in the December death of Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, whose charred remains were found in January in a shallow grave behind the Laureans' Jacksonville home.

Lauterbach was seven months' pregnant at the time of her death. An autopsy determined she had been beaten to death, and authorities said they found traces of blood inside Laurean's home. They have not said if was Lauterbach's.

Laurean fled Jacksonville on Jan. 11, hours before Lauterbach's body was found, and was arrested in April in a small town in western Mexico after an international manhunt.

When he fled, he left behind a note in which he claimed Lauterbach had committed suicide and that he had buried her out of fear. Christina Laurean turned that note over to authorities and cooperated with them during the search for her husband.

The Marine Corps granted Christina Laurean a two-week leave to visit her husband, and she left for Mexico on Monday, Hudson said. The military plans to remain in close contact with her throughout her stay there, he said.

The Laureans' child remained in Onslow County with relatives, he said.

"I do not know what impact Christina Laurean's decision to travel to Mexico to visit her husband will have on her willingness to continue to cooperate with the proper authorities," he said. "I cannot compel her (to testify). She's a spouse."

Cesar Laurean's U.S. attorney, Dick McNeil, said Christina Laurean's visit also could present problems for his case.

"I'm concerned about any kind of potential recordings (of conversations between the Laureans). I'm not saying they do that down there, but that's something that's not done here in America," McNeil said. "At the same time, I have talked to my client, and he's very eager to see his wife. I'm sure he's very happy that she's down there."

Cesar Laurean is fighting a Mexican court's decision to extradite him to North Carolina to face charges in the case. One of the arguments presented by his Mexican attorneys is that a life sentence in prison without the possibility of parole violates the extradition treaty between the U.S. and Mexico.

Hudson agreed months ago not to seek the death penalty against Laurean if he were apprehended in Mexico because the country has resisted extraditing people to the U.S. if they could face capital punishment.

The appeal of the extradition order could take up to two years, Hudson said.

The military has no pending charges against Laurean and is letting the civilian authorities in Onslow County handle the case, said Lt. Col. Curtis Hill, a spokesman for Camp Lejeune.