Possible Sighting Of Marine Murder Suspect

Cesar Armando Laurean, US Marine wanted in connection with disappearance of Maria Frances Lauterbach on FBI Website federal bureau of investigation

Authorities offered a $25,000 reward Monday for information leading to the arrest of a key suspect in the death of a 20-year-old pregnant Marine.

Federal authorities are also working to post billboards nationwide with the picture of Marine Cpl. Cesar Armando Laurean, wanted in the slaying of Marine Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, who had accused him of rape.

Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown said Monday that federal marshals have spoken with Laurean's family, but still haven't found him. Lauterbach's ATM card was found at a bus station in Durham, about 150 miles northwest of Jacksonville, and witnesses had reported seeing his black four-door pickup truck in the Raleigh and Durham area, Brown said.

"We have answered a whole lot of questions about Mr. Laurean, except where he is," said Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown. "There will always be lingering questions until we get the final, true, clear picture of what happened."

Lauterbach's friends say they immediately suspected Laurean but the question is, why didn't police? Lauterbach was last heard from on December 14th and was officially reported missing December 19th. But CBS News correspondent Jeff Glor reports that it took 18 days for the sheriff's department to narrow its focus to Laurean - despite the ongoing military rape investigation.

Brown said detectives were still not positive that witness reports placing Laurean on Saturday night at a bus depot in Shreveport, La., were accurate. Brown said those reports were unclear as to whether the man believed to be Laurean boarded a bus that was headed to Texas, or left the station.

One of the biggest concerns facing authorities is that Laurean, who speaks fluent Spanish, may try and slip across the Mexican border, reports CBS' The Early Show.

"The search for Laurean is earthwide," Brown said.

Brown declined Monday to discuss in detail what authorities had learned from Laurean's family, but did confirm he and his wife have an 18-month-old daughter. He again said that Laurean's wife is cooperating with authorities, and confidently predicted that Laurean will be caught.

Laurean's in-laws, Bruce and Debby Shifflet, told The Early Show that their daughter Christine spoke with Laurean. They say she asked him to turn himself in for the sake of the family.

"He said, he didn't want to go to the pen for this," Bruce Shifflet told The Early Show. "He was remorseful, but he left anyway."

The potential sightings in Louisiana came a day after authorities said they recovered what they believe to be the burned remains of Lauterbach and her unborn child from a fire pit in Laurean's backyard, where they suspect he burned and buried her body.

Lauterbach disappeared sometime after Dec. 14, not long after she met with military prosecutors to talk about her April allegation that Laurean raped her. Naval investigators said Saturday the rape case was progressing, the fellow personnel clerks had been assigned to different buildings, and that Laurean had been under a protective order to stay away from Lauterbach.

FBI Info On Laurean
Brown said Monday that police believe she was killed on or about Dec. 15, and state authorities have issued an arrest warrant for Laurean, 21, of the Las Vegas area, on murder charges. The FBI is also seeking him on a warrant charging him with to unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

Detectives believe he fled Jacksonville before dawn Friday, and said he left behind a note in which he admitted burying her body but claimed she cut her own throat in a suicide. Authorities received Laurean's note about the purported suicide from Laurean's wife, whose family has described her as "heartbroken."

Brown has challenged Laurean's assertion that Lauterbach killed herself, citing what he described as evidence of a violent confrontation inside Laurean's home - blood spatters on the ceiling and a massive amount of blood on the wall.

"I thought he was a man of character and it's obviously he is just a coward taking off on his family and leaving," Bruce Shifflet told The Early Show. "This is just a tragedy for both families."

Lauterbach's mother reported her daughter missing Dec. 19. She had been placed on "unauthorized absence" status by the Marine Corps and was listed that day in a national law enforcement database as a "missing person at risk."

The military has long been accused of mishandling sexual assault reports, and there are now some protective measures in place, reports CBS News national security correspondent David Martin.

Earlier in the Iraq war, revelations that there had been more than 100 sexual assault cases in Kuwait, Iraq and the rest of the Persian gulf coupled with complaints from female service members that the male-dominated chain of command did not take their allegations seriously, brought charges from Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, that victims of a sexual assault in the military face far more obstacles in getting the help that she or he needs, reports Martin.

Naval investigators said authorities didn't consider Laurean a threat to Lauterbach, or later a flight risk, because they had indications the pair were on friendly terms. Laurean later refused to meet with investigators and left town without telling his lawyers where he was going.

Sheriff Brown told Glor that he doesn't expect the suspect to give up and go quietly.

When asked what Lorean could be capable of, Brown answered, "Based on what I saw in that grave, anything."

"You're never gone for good when law enforcement is after you," Brown said Monday. "It may be two days or two weeks, ten days or ten years, but you're never gone for good."

© MVIII, CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report
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