Local News

Accused Marine to return to U.S. on Friday

Posted April 15, 2009 6:54 p.m. EDT
Updated April 16, 2009 6:50 p.m. EDT

— A Camp Lejeune Marine charged with killing a pregnant comrade is expected to be extradited from Mexico by the end of the week, authorities said.

Cpl. Cesar Laurean is charged with first-degree murder in the December 2007 death of Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, whose charred remains were found a month later in a shallow grave behind his 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 blood.

Laurean fled Jacksonville hours before Lauterbach's body was found and was arrested in April 2008 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.

Onslow County District Attorney Dewey Hudson said Camp Lejeune officials notified him Wednesday that Laurean's appeal of a Mexican judge's extradition order had been denied. He was expected to appear before a U.S. district judge in Houston on a federal charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

Laurean will remain in federal custody until he is returned to Onslow County, but Hudson said he didn't know exactly when that would happen. If Laurean continues to fight a return to North Carolina, Hudson said, he might need to get Gov. Beverly Perdue to send a formal extradition order to Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Defense attorney Dick McNeil said he would encourage Laurean to return to Onslow County as soon as possible to enter a not guilty plea.

"Until he's back, he's not back, and so, you know, I want to see him in an Onslow County courtroom, and at that point, I will be satisfied," Hudson said.

Prosecutors have been assembling the case against Laurean in recent months while awaiting his extradition, and Hudson said prosecutors have a box of evidence to turn over to his attorneys upon his return to Onslow County. The case could go to trial in the fall, he said.

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.

"I am happy with the way things have been going because things have been going our way for a long time now, but it took awhile for their process to take place," he said.

The Marine Corps will officially discharge Laurean once he returns to the Camp Lejeune area.