Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Maria Lauterbach's killer sentenced to life without parole

(Originally Posted 1-12-08)

Maria Lauterbach, a 20 year old Marine who was 8 months pregnant, was found murdered yesterday in North Carolina along with her fetus after her disappearance December 19th. She last spoke to her mother December 14th and her car was found a week ago (January 7th). Yesterday, remains of a woman and her fetus were found in the primary suspect's home, that of another Marine she suspected of rape in April last year. The idea that the baby was the rape suspect's is plausible.

The suspect in her murder, Marine Cpl. Cesar Laurean 21, was accused of rape by Maria, and she was scheduled to testify against Laurean at a military hearing.

While Maria's mother described her as a liar, her uncle, Peter Steiner, described the pregnancy as due to the alleged rape, and maintained that the Marines did not protect his niece. When her car was found, a military protective order, similar to a restraining order, was found, but civilian officials said they were never notified. The order, which lasted from July to September, stated Laurean could not come within 1000 feet of Maria.

The Jacksonville (NC) Daily News has more.

Civilian investigators have said a military protective order — similar to a restraining order, but authorized by the commanding officer in charge of the Marine being restrained — existed for a pregnant Marine against the Marine accused of killing her, but they were never made aware of it by anyone from Camp Lejeune.

Paul Chiccarelli, special agent in charge of Naval Criminal Investigative Service aboard Camp Lejeune, said the "crucial information that brought the turn in the case came through the base," adding the base had been very cooperative throughout the investigation. Chiccarelli said Laurean was not taken into custody after Lauterbach reported the alleged rape because there were indications that Lauterbach and Laurean carried on "some sort of friendly relationship" after she filed the complaint against him.

Chiccarelli said Laurean had not been considered a flight risk after the Lauterbach disappearance.

Laurean ended up fleeing at around 4AM Friday, and is currently on the run. He is believed to be in either Louisiana or Texas as of 6:30 PM Sunday.

Lauterbach's uncle, Peter Steiner, a psychiatrist who lives in Louisville, Ky., and had been in Jacksonville in the past week looking into his niece's disappearance, said his niece called her uncle's home at least twice a week, because they were very close. "She was a very beautiful, athletic young lady. She volunteered to join the Marine Corps. She was very committed to the Marines, and she is being portrayed in a way that does not look well."

Because of the widespread coverage, Victimized Over The AOC will link to sources which provide more in-depth coverage of this story.

Holly's Fight Against Violence, a Canada-centric blog against violence against women, has this tribute to the young Marine.

The Jacksonville, NC Daily News has this special section related to coverage of her disappearance and murder.
Update (1-15-08): According to the autopsy report, Maria Lauterbach died of blunt trauma to the head, putting to rest all doubt about her murder. There was a note written by Lauren claiming that she committed suicide by slitting her throat. Laurean is said to be in hiding, and not actively on the run.

"It is believed that he has reached a location where his need to move in high speed or long distance no longer exists,” said Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown. A $25,000 reward has been postedfor information leading to Laurean's arrest.

Update (1-18-08): Marine officials did not believe that Lauterbach was the victim of foul play until she was found dead. Mrs. Laurean waited 24 hours before reporting Lauterbach's death to authorities, and an item, believed to be a crowbar, suspected as being the murder weapon, was recovered after being turned in by a witness. Police found Laurean's truck, and are going over evidence inside it.

“We believe that we have an item that may have been used in the murder of Maria Lauterbach,” Sheriff’s Department Capt. Rick Sutherland said. “It is consistent with what the Medical Examiner believes is the cause of death. We have not confirmed what this item is.”

Laurean is now believed to be in Mexico, where he allegedly told fellow Marines and his wife he would flee to if convicted in the rape.

The FBI filed court documents this week stating Laurean told members of his Marine Corps unit he would flee to Mexico if it appeared he would be found guilty of raping Lauterbach. Laurean's wife, Christina Laurean, also told authorities she believed her husband would head to Mexico if he was in legal trouble. Laurean is reported to have mailed letters back to his wife in North Carolina, according to two law enforcement officials who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. The letters had a Houston postmark, the AP reported.

"We strongly suspect, but have not confirmed, that Laurean may be in Mexico," said FBI spokesman Richard Kolko in Washington. "We have a strong working relationship with law enforcement partners in Mexico, and we're working with them to locate and apprehend him." In addition to the original charges of first-degree murder, bank card theft and obtaining property by false pretense, Laurean has been charged by the FBI with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.
(Update 4-11-08)

Laurean has been captured in Morelia, capital of the Mexican state of Michoacan. Besides murder, charges include theft, robbery with a dangerous weapon, and fraud. Police carrying out an anti-kidnapping operation stopped Laurean because he was acting suspicious, and then ran him through a criminal database. It is believe that Laurean used Lauterbach's ATM card to with draw funds for his flight to Mexico, which according to prosecutors occured January 14.

U.S. Ambassador Tony Garza said in a statement that “Laurean fled to Mexico early this year in the hope of avoiding justice” and called the arrest “a clear message to all would-be fugitives from U.S. law that Mexico will not provide them refuge.”

Prosecutors dropped the death penalty as the maximum sentence to secure Laurean's extradiction.

Phone messages seeking comment left at Lauterbach’s parents’ home in Vandalia, Ohio, with Lauterbach’s uncle Pete Steiner, and with family attorney Chris Conard were not immediately returned late Thursday.

Another family attorney, Merle Wilberding, said Lauterbach’s mother, Mary, received the call from the FBI informing her of the arrest with “shock and surprise.”

“She’s been living with Cpl. Laurean being on the run ... and living without an expectation that he was going to be captured any time soon, so when the word came it really caught her by surprise, and she’s still trying to let it all sink in,” Wilberding told WDTN-TV in Dayton, Ohio.
(Update 4-20-09) Laurean was formally extradicted back to North Carolina from Mexico last Friday. Earlier today, he was in court for a bond hearing in Onslow County District Court. The hearing, presided over by Judge Paul A. Hardison, enede with Laurean being denied bond. His next court appearence will be May 18. Official charges include 1st degree murder, robbery with a dangerous weapon, and numerous theft related charges.

(Update 8-24-10) Laurean was convicted by a jury after three hours of deliberation of bludgeoning Lauterbach to death and immediately sentenced to life without parole. The trial was moved to Wayne County, NC from Onslow County due to pre-trial publicity. Besides the 1st degree murder charge, Laurean was also convicted of theft and fraud by using Lauterbach's ATM card.

During closing arguments, Chief Assistant District Attorney Ernie Lee talked about the 4 weeks between when the victim's mother last saw her daughter and when Lauterbach's body was found in a burn pit. “On Jan. 11, 2008, Mary Lauterbach’s nightmare became a reality when her daughter’s body was found buried in the defendant’s backyard,” Lee said. Lee went on to say how Laurean's career was at stake, since sex with a subordinate is a crime in the Marine Corps.  Despite the DNA test showing that Laurean was not the father of Lauterbach's unborn child, “as long as Maria Lauterbach was still out there he could not [be a good Marine].”

Meanwhile, Lauterbach's defense attorney, Dick McNeil, said that his client should not be convicted of 1st degree murder because Laurean's wife, Christina, also had motive. Texts and computer records make no record of Laurean and Lauterbach being in contact between the rape allegation and the murder. Laurean was eventually cleared of that rape allegation.

McNeil painted his client as a panicked Marine who was at home minding his own business when a troubled, distraught woman came to his door in violation of a protective order. McNeil says he questioned Lauterbach’s truthfulness during the trial, not to degrade her reputation, but to show she was depressed and confused.

Before sentencing but after the verdict, Maria Lauterbach told Laurean to look at his mother and think of his daughter. “I feel so sorry for your daughter. She will have to live with the shame that her father is in prison for murdering not one but two people,” she said.
McNeil said that he planned to appeal the verdict.

No comments: