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SBI agents: Lauterbach's blood in Laurean's garage, on crowbar

Two state investigators testified Tuesday that blood spatters found inside the garage of a Jacksonville home and on a crowbar belonged to a Camp Lejeune Marine whose charred remains were found buried behind the home in early 2008.

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GOLDSBORO, N.C. — Two state investigators testified Tuesday that blood spatters found inside the garage of a Jacksonville home and on a crowbar belonged to a Camp Lejeune Marine whose charred remains were found buried behind the home in early 2008.

Former Marine Cesar Laurean, 23, is charged with killing Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach in December 2007 and burying her body in a fire pit behind his Jacksonville home.

A State Bureau of Investigation agent testified Monday that he collected samples of what appeared to be spatters of dried blood from the floor, ceiling and a wall of Laurean's garage. Larger stains also were on a pink, inflatable raft, a paint can and plastic storage bins that were in the garage, Special Agent Steve Combs said.

On Tuesday, Jenny Elwell, an SBI forensics expert, confirmed that the spatters were human blood, and Sharon Hinton, an SBI DNA expert, said the genetic make-up of the blood matched Lauterbach's DNA.

Elwell and Hinton also testified that a spot on a crowbar also matched Lauterbach's blood.

On Monday, a former Marine testified that Lauren gave him the crowbar two days after Lauterbach disappeared. Dennis Ward said he and his wife turned the crowbar over to authorities upon learning of her death a few weeks later.

An autopsy determined that Lauterbach, 20, of Vandalia, Ohio, was killed by a blow to the head.

Laurean fled Jacksonville hours before Lauterbach's remains were discovered in January 2008. He left behind a note saying that she had killed herself and that he had buried her out of fear.

An international manhunt led to Laurean's arrest in April 2008 in rural Mexico.

Hinton's testimony bolstered Laurean's defense. She said that his DNA wasn't part of a mix of genetic material found on the handle of the crowbar, adding that Lauterbach, Laurean's wife, Ward and his wife couldn't be excluded as possible contributors to the DNA mix on the handle.

Onslow County Chief Assistant District Attorney Ernie Lee asked Hinton why someone's DNA might not be on the crowbar handle, and she responded that wearing gloves would prevent DNA from being transferred to the handle and wiping the handle possibly could remove some DNA from it.

Lauterbach was nearly eight months pregnant at the time of her death. She had accused Laurean of raping her in the spring of 2007, and although she later recanted the allegation, Camp Lejeune officials continued to investigate the case until her death.

Defense questions Lauterbach's credibility

Defense attorney Dick McNeil has said Lauterbach's false accusation threatened Laurean's military career. He contends her reputation as being untruthful would play a role in whether jurors believe her death was premeditated.

On Tuesday, his questioning of Detective Sgt. T.J. Cavanaugh of the Onslow County Sheriff's Office focused on Lauterbach's emotional stability.

Cavanaugh said that an alert for officers to be on the lookout for Lauterbach, which had been issued in Ohio at the request of her family, stated Lauterbach had a history of mental illness and was possibly bipolar.

Lauterbach had "occasional problems with compulsive lying," Mary Lauterbach, her mother, testified when asked about her daughter's truthfulness. She said her daughter usually told the truth and was a bad liar.

McNeil questioned Mary Lauterbach about the report she gave to Ohio authorities that led to the alert for her missing daughter.

"I never called her a compulsive liar. I never called my daughter a pathological liar," she replied firmly.

Mary Lauterbach said her daughter told her on Mothers Day 2007 that she had been raped about a month earlier, and they later learned she was pregnant. The Lauterbach family tried to talk her into giving the child up for adoption because she wouldn't be able to care for it while serving in the Marines, Mary Lauterbach said.

She tearfully recalled her last conversation with her daughter on Dec. 14, 2007, saying that she was shocked to hear from Maria Lauterbach's roommate hours later that she had gone AWOL.

She said she called her daughter's cell phone repeatedly over the next few days, but it always went to voicemail. Because the two talked almost daily, she said, she knew "something was terribly wrong."

In other testimony Tuesday, James Faggart, a fingerprint expert with the SBI, testified that he obtained no usable prints from Lauterbach's car or her bank card. Other witnesses have testified that a man tried to use the bank card at an automated teller machine in Jacksonville on Christmas Eve 2007.

One witness jurors will not hear from during the trial is Laurean's wife, Christina Laurean. Prosecutors subpoenaed her to testify, but her lawyer, Chris Welch, persuaded Superior Court Judge Osmond Smith to quash the subpoena on Tuesday.

Under state law, a husband or wife cannot be compelled to testify against his or her spouse.

Prosecutors are expected to wrap up their case on Wednesday. After that, McNeil will present the defense case.

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Dan Bowens, Reporter
Chad Flowers, Photographer
Matthew Burns, Web Editor

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