Local News

Laurean jurors: Evidence made for easy decision

Posted August 24, 2010 11:21 p.m. EDT
Updated August 25, 2010 9:54 a.m. EDT

— A former Camp Lejeune Marine is spending life in prison without parole after being found guilty Monday of killing a pregnant comrade in December 2007.

Jurors deliberated for about three hours before finding Cesar Laurean guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach.

Juror Shelia Newsome said Tuesday that she still has unanswered questions about exactly what happened the night Lauterbach was killed. But she said the one thing she's not unsure of Laurean’s guilt.

“We didn’t have a chance to have a reasonable doubt, because we had circumstantial evidence,” Newsome said.

Lauterbach, 20, was nearly eight months pregnant at the time of her death. She had accused Laurean, who was one of her supervisors, of raping her in the spring of 2007, but later recanted the allegation. Although military investigators couldn't corroborate her claims, they continued to look into the case until her death.

DNA tests conducted after Laurean's April 2008 arrest confirmed that he wasn't the father of Lauterbach's child.

Laurean fled Jacksonville hours before Lauterbach's body was found in January 2008 and was arrested three months later in a small town in western Mexico. When he fled, he left behind a note in which he claimed Lauterbach had committed suicide and that he had buried her in a backyard fire pit out of fear.

A pathologist testified during the two-week trial that Lauterbach was killed by a blow to the head, and two forensics experts said that her blood was found throughout Laurean's garage and on a crowbar that he gave to a Marine buddy two days after Lauterbach was last seen alive.

Juror Jerome Anders said a decision came quickly because the evidence in the case was clear.

“Everybody agreed, and everything was pretty much cut and dry,” Anders said.

Laurean didn't testify during the trial. Newsome said hearing from him might have made a difference.

His testimony could have "given us more input into that, rather than just circumstantial evidence," she said. "But we didn’t have that.”

Jurors also convicted Laurean of financial transaction card theft and attempted financial transaction card fraud for trying to use Lauterbach's bank card. They acquitted him on a related charge of robbery with a dangerous weapon.

(WNCT-TV Channel 9 contributed to this report)