Arrest Warrant In Death Of Pregnant Marine

Lance Cpl. Maria Frances Lauterbach and Cpl. Cesar Laurean. Marine pregnant
Authorities issued an arrest warrant Saturday for a Marine corporal wanted in the death of a pregnant colleague, whose body they excavated from a fire pit in his backyard.

Authorities also recovered the remains of Lance Cpl. Maria Frances Lauterbach's unborn child.

"The fetus was developed enough that the little hand was about the size of my thumb," Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown said. "The little fingers were rolled up and this is consistent with what we were looking for, a pregnant lady who is the victim, Maria Lauterbach, and her unborn child."

Lauterbach, who was 20 years old when she disappeared last month, was 8-and-a-half months pregnant.

The scene was at the home of 21-year-old Corporal Cesar Armando Laurean, about 15 minutes away from Camp Lejeune.

Laurean, whom Lauterbach accused of rape, disappeared early Friday morning. He was last seen in a black Dodge pickup.

Investigators have found blood spatters on the ceiling and a massive amount of blood on the wall of the home of Laurean, Sheriff Brown said. It appeared that someone had tried to wash and paint over the blood, he said.

"The blood splatters indicate a violent, violent attack," Brown said. "I do think this case is going to be a bizzare ending - when I say bizarre, more than a death and a burial."

In a fire pit in the backyard of Laurean's home, authorities found burnt human remains roughly six inches to one foot underground, said Dr. Charles Garrett, the Onslow County medical examiner. Once fully recovered, he said, the remains will be sent to the state medical examiner's office in Chapel Hill for a positive identification using dental records.

A nationwide search for Laurean continued Saturday, a day after Brown identified him as the key suspect in the death of 20-year-old Lance Cpl. Maria Frances Lauterbach. She disappeared in December, just days after meeting with military prosecutors to talk about her allegation that Laurean raped her.

Even though Laurean was accused, the military had not taken him into custody.

He was not deemed to be a flight risk.

Paul Ciccarelli, of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, said, "As a matter of fact, the information developed this morning indicated there may have been a relationship, could be friendly in nature, that occurred after the incident was reported between the subject and the victim."

However, Lauterbach's uncle, Peter Steiner, said his niece didn't have any kind of relationship with her attacker, and that Lauterbach had been forced to rent a room off base because of harassment at Camp Lejeune.

There is no indication Lauterbach asked the military to protect her after she leveled the rape allegations, investigators said.

"She was raped," Steiner said. "The Marines, unfortunately, did not protect her, and now she's dead."

Before fleeing Jacksonville early Friday, Brown said, Laurean left a note that said Lauterbach had "come to his residence and cut her (own) throat."

Brown confirmed Saturday that authorities received the note from Laurean's wife, Christina, around 8 a.m. Friday, about four hours after they suspect he fled.

Laurean wrote in the note that he had nothing to do with Lauterbach's suicide, but that he had buried her body, the sheriff said.

Authorities have dismissed the idea that Lauterbach killed herself, pointing to the blood stains and the obvious signs of a cleanup inside Laurean's one-story, brown brick ranch home. Brown challenged Laurean, who has not been charged with a crime, to come forward and defend his claims of innocence.

Brown declined to comment when asked if authorities thought Christina Laurean was involved or even aware of her husband's actions.

She is "heartbroken," said her mother, Debbie Sue Shifflet.

"I feel sorry for the other family," Shifflet said. "It's horrible what they're going through. My heart goes out to them."

In the backyard of Laurean's home, authorities found what "appeared to be burnt human remains" in the fire pit, District Attorney Dewey Hudson said. State investigators planned to use garden tools to slowly scrape dirt from the site, protected overnight by a tarp and two white tents.

"We think we have found what will (contain) the skeletal remains of Maria Lauterbach," Hudson said.

Brown said Saturday there had been no sightings of Laurean, 21, of the Las Vegas area. He had refused to meet with investigators and left without telling his lawyers where he was going, the sheriff said.

Lauterbach met with military prosecutors last month to discuss pursuing rape charges against Laurean, said Kevin Marks, supervisory agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service at Camp Lejeune. He said military prosecutors believed they had enough evidence to argue that the case should go to trial.

In court papers filed this week, prosecutors said the anticipated birth of the baby "might provide evidentiary credence to charges she lodged with military authorities that she was sexually assaulted." Lauterbach reported the rape in April and was due to give birth in mid-February, authorities said.

Originally from Dayton, Ohio, Lauterbach was reported missing Dec. 19 by her mother, who last spoke with her daughter on Dec. 14, authorities said. Her cell phone was found Dec. 20 near the main gate at Camp Lejeune, and she missed a Dec. 26 prenatal care appointment.

Lauterbach was assigned to the 2nd Marine Logistics Group of the II Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Camp Lejeune. She joined the Marines in June 2006, and had not been sent to either Iraq or Afghanistan. Laurean worked in the same unit, where both were personnel clerks.