Marine Murder Trial: Cpl. Cesar Laurean Accused of Killing Pregnant Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach

Cpl. Cesar Laurean (AP Photo/U.S. Marine Corps, file)
Trail Begins Tuesday For Marine Accused of Killing Pregnant Colleague Whose Remains Found In Firepit
Cpl. Cesar Laurean (AP Photo/U.S. Marine Corps, file)

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (CBS/AP) Marine Cpl. Cesar Laurean, accused of murdering fellow marine Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, is scheduled to go on trial Tuesday, with investigators saying he was driven by rage and fear over allegations by Lauterbach that he raped her and she was pregnant with his child.

Lauterbach was reported missing two in December 2008, and her cremated remains were later found in a firepit behind Laurean's house, according to police. They were both clerks in a combat logistics regiment at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

There is no physical evidence and no eyewitnesses to support Lauterbach's accusations, according to naval investigators, and Laurean denied ever having sexual contact with Lauterbach.

Onslow County District Attorney Dewey Hudson has deemed the case "one of the most perplexing he's seen in three decades as a prosecutor."

According to a January 2008 affidavit, the day Lauterbach was killed she reportedly purchased a bus ticket to El Paso, Texas, then later showed up at Laurean's ranch-style home, demanded money from him and said she was leaving North Carolina.

Laurean wrote a note to his wife, stating that he was arguing with Lauterbach when she pulled out a knife and slit her own throat, but an autopsy on Lauterbach's charred remains indicated she died after being struck in the head.

Investigators found the blood spatter on the ceiling and the blood pooled on the wall of Laurean's home to be clear indicators of a violent confrontation.

The only lead investigators had when Lauterbach vanished in December 2008 was a note she left for her roommate in which the Ohio native stated she was weary of the Marine Corps lifestyle. Two days later, Onslow County officials took up the case after Lauterbach's mother reported her missing.

Authorities were still hopeful of finding Lauterbach alive until Laurean's wife, Christina, handed over the note in which her husband claimed Lauterbach had committed suicide and that he buried her nearby. Investigators found Lauterbach's remains in a firepit behind Laurean's house just hours after receiving the note.

Laurean was already on the run when Lauterbach's remains were discovered, and lead authorities on a three month international manhunt. He was arrested in April 2008 in western Mexico and was extradited last year.

In May 2009, a report by the Department of Defense Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, determined DNA from Laurean did not match that of Lauterbach's unborn baby.

The trial was moved from Jacksonville to Goldsboro, N.C. in January after a judge ruled pretrial publicity could influence jurors. According to defense attorney Dick McNeil, the trial is expected to last between two and three weeks.

Laurean faces first-degree murder and a bevy of other charges. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.