World News

Mexico Issues Warrant for Missing Marine

Posted January 29, 2008 8:43 a.m. EST
Updated January 29, 2008 3:15 p.m. EST

— Mexican authorities have issued an arrest warrant for a Camp Lejeune Marine suspected of killing a pregnant comrade who had accused him of rape, a U.S. embassy official said Tuesday.

A cousin told reporters last week that Marine Cpl. Cesar Laurean visited family in the area of Guadalajara, Mexico, this month, but left without saying where he was headed.

The burned remains of Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach were found with those of her fetus earlier this month in a fire pit in the back yard of Laurean's house in Jacksonville, and Laurean is being sought on an indictment charging first-degree murder.

Laurean, who was born in Mexico, fled Onslow County after leaving a note for his wife saying that Lauterbach cut her own throat and that he had buried her body.

An autopsy determined Lauterbach died from blunt force trauma to the head.

An Onslow County grand jury indicted Laurean last week on charges of murder, robbery with a dangerous weapon, financial transaction card theft, attempted financial transaction card fraud and fraud. The indictments alleged that he threatened Lauterbach with a blunt object to rob her of cash and her ATM card.

Prosecutors have pledged not to pursue the death penalty if Laurean is found in Mexico, which refuses to send anyone back to the U.S. unless provided assurances they will not face execution.

A U.S. embassy official, who was not authorized to give a name, said Mexican officials had issued a warrant for Laurean's arrest on a U.S. extradition request. The official didn't say when the warrant was issued.

Mary Lauterbach, Maria Lauterbach's mother, told NBC's "Today" show that the Marine Corps should consider basic procedural changes, "such as a mandatory base move if a person requests it after a rape accusation."

"We want to change the climate so that any time a woman is attacked and, you know, wants to report it, that she can do so without the fear that the repercussions from reporting it will be far worse than the rape itself," Lauterbach said.

Maria Lauterbach accused Laurean of rape last April, authorities said. Lauren denied the allegations, and military investigators said Lauterbach later backed off her statement, saying no force or coercion was used in two sexual encounters she had with Laurean.

Laurean's cousin, Juan Antonio Ramos Ramirez, told The Associated Press that Laurean walked into his liquor store in a Guadalajara suburb on Jan. 14 or Jan. 15 and chatted for a few minutes. Ramos Ramirez said his cousin never came back.

Lauterbach failed to show up for work in mid-December and her body was found three weeks later.

Lauterbach's family has said she was harassed at Camp Lejeune, the massive base on the Atlantic coast where she and Laurean served in the same logistics unit as personnel clerks. The Marines have said her car was keyed once and that she reported that she had been punched in the face.

The Marines ordered Laurean to stay away from Lauterbach one day after she reported the rape in May, and later issued a protective order to keep them apart. Their regimental commander also assigned Lauterbach to work in a separate building across the base from Laurean, although the Marines said earlier this month that Lauterbach reported that she did not feel threatened by him.

Naval investigators have said they have no physical evidence or witness accounts to corroborate Lauterbach's claims, but Lauterbach's and Laurean's regimental commander was intent on taking the case to a hearing that could have led to a trial.

Lauterbach's family has complained that the Marines and local officials didn't respond with enough urgency to her disappearance in mid-December. At that time, Mary Lauterbach told sheriff's officials in North Carolina her daughter was a "compulsive liar," a comment she has repeatedly said was a mistake.

"I said, you know, she had problems, you know, with occasional lying," Lauterbach said on NBC. "And that got - just a piece of that was pulled out. So it was really misstated."

Prosecutors believe Lauterbach was killed Dec. 14. Marine officials have said they attempted to find her after she failed to report to work on Dec. 17, but had evidence - including a note left for her roommate in which she said she was tired of the Marine Corps lifestyle - that led them to believe she left on her own.