National News

Mother of slain Marine urges more help for assault victims

Posted July 31, 2008 3:58 p.m. EDT
Updated July 31, 2008 6:03 p.m. EDT

— The mother of a slain Camp Lejeune Marine on Thursday called for more protection for servicemen and women who have been sexually assaulted.

"I'm here to ask you to do what you can to help change how the military treats victims of crime," Mary Lauterbach told members of a congressional oversight committee.

Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach was beaten to death in December, and her charred remains were found a month later in a shallow grave behind the home of a fellow Marine. She was seven months pregnant at the time of her death.

Cpl. Cesar Laurean has been charged with murder in the case. He was arrested in Mexico after a three-month manhunt and is awaiting extradition to North Carolina.

A year ago, Maria Lauterbach accused Laurean of rape, a charge he denied. Camp Lejeune officials changed her job so the two would no longer work together, and they investigated her claims.

Mary Lauterbach said her daughter was repeatedly harassed on base after she became pregnant.

"She became pregnant – she became aware of it at the end of June, beginning of July (2007) – and shortly thereafter her car was vandalized," Mary Lauterbach said. "She reported it, and the Marines dismissed it. (Later,) she was getting something out of her trunk at twilight, they yelled her name (and) she turned around and got punched in the face.

"She was very afraid at this point," her mother testified. "She once again went and reported it. They said, 'Can you identify the voice?' She said, 'No, I'm not certain who it is.' They said, 'Well, we can't link this to your sexual assault allegations, so too bad.'"

Maria Lauterbach asked for a transfer but was denied, her mother said.

"They said, 'Don't bother. It's not going to happen,'" she said.

Camp Lejeune spokesman Lt. Col. Curtis Hill said in a statement Thursday afternoon that Maria Lauterbach told her superior officer that Laurean wasn't the person who attacked her in the parking lot. She also failed to report the incident to the Provost Marshal's Office so an investigation could be initiated, the statement said.

Mary Lauterbach insisted Thursday that her daughter and unborn grandchild might not have died If the Marines had paid more attention to her daughter's complaints and had handled the situation better.

"I believe that Maria would be alive today if the Marines had provided a more effective system to protect the victims of sexual assault," she said.

The military needs to investigate and prosecute cases more quickly and needs to provide more victim advocacy and more security, including transfers and protective orders, she said.

"A victim should not have to connect the dots between incidents of harassment and a rape claim," she said. "Victims of sexual assault should not be left to twist and turn while their claim is being prosecuted or dismissed."