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Search for slay suspect heats up

Hunt 'earthwide' for Marine, 21

An electronic billboard in Columbus, Ohio, seeking the public's help and offering a reward for finding Corporal Cesar Laurean, a Marine wanted in the slaying of a pregnant fellow Marine, Lance Corporal Maria Lauterbach. An electronic billboard in Columbus, Ohio, seeking the public's help and offering a reward for finding Corporal Cesar Laurean, a Marine wanted in the slaying of a pregnant fellow Marine, Lance Corporal Maria Lauterbach. (Jay LaPrete/Associated Press)
Email|Print| Text size + By Mike Baker
Associated Press / January 15, 2008

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. - Federal authorities were posting billboards nationwide with the picture of a Marine wanted in the slaying of a pregnant colleague, and the sheriff announced a $25,000 reward yesterday for information leading to his arrest.

Authorities are looking for Marine Corporal Cesar Armando Laurean, wanted in the death of Marine Lance Corporal Maria Lauterbach, who had accused him of rape. FBI officials said the first billboards with Laurean's photo were to be posted yesterday in Columbus, Ohio, and Las Vegas.

"The search for Laurean is earthwide," Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown said.

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.

Brown also said that federal marshals have spoken with Laurean's relatives, but Brown refused to say what authorities learned from them. He said Laurean, 21, of the Las Vegas area, is married and has an 18-month-old daughter.

Brown again said that Laurean's wife is cooperating with authorities. He confidently predicted that Laurean will be caught.

"You're never gone for good when law enforcement is after you," Brown said. "It may be two days or two weeks, 10 days or 10 years, but you're never gone for good."

Lauterbach disappeared sometime after Dec. 14, not long after the 20-year-old Dayton, Ohio, native met with military prosecutors to talk about the allegation she made in April that Laurean raped her.

Over the weekend, authorities 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.

Naval investigators said Saturday that when Lauterbach disappeared, 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.

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

Detectives believe he fled Jacksonville before dawn Friday and said he left 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 his 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.

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.

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.

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