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Marine didn't feel threatened by colleague, officials say

Alleged attacker's truck is found

Police officers checked the area around a truck belonging to Marine Corporal Cesar Armando Laurean in the parking lot of Microtel Inn in Morrisville, N.C., yesterday. Police officers checked the area around a truck belonging to Marine Corporal Cesar Armando Laurean in the parking lot of Microtel Inn in Morrisville, N.C., yesterday. (Chris Seward/News & Observer via Associated Press)
Email|Print| Text size + By Mike Baker
Associated Press / January 16, 2008

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. - A 20-year-old pregnant Marine who disappeared in December told victims' advocates at Camp Lejeune that she didn't feel unsafe in the presence of the colleague now wanted in her death, Marine Corps officials said yesterday.

Marine Corporal Cesar Armando Laurean did not violate the military protective order directing him to stay away from Lance Corporal Maria Lauterbach, and he continued to report for work on time in the weeks after her disappearance, denying having any kind of sexual contact with her, said Colonel Gary Sokoloski, the judge advocate general officer for the II Marine Expeditionary Force.

"At no time did she indicate that she was threatened by Corporal Laurean," Sokoloski said.

Authorities confirmed yesterday that remains found over the weekend in a fire pit in Laurean's backyard were those of Lauterbach and her child. Dr. Charles Garrett, the Onslow County medical examiner, said Lauterbach, who was eight months' pregnant when she vanished, died of "traumatic head injury due to blunt force trauma."

The autopsy did not answer all the questions about the circumstances of Lauterbach's death, said Dewey Hudson, county prosecutor. Detectives are still unsure whether she gave birth before her death and of the identity of the father, he said.

Marine officials said yesterday that Lauterbach met with prosecutors in November and said she no longer believed Laurean was the father. A pregnancy test performed in May, when she alleged that Laurean had raped her in March and April, was negative. A test done in June was positive, and doctors estimated the date of conception was May 14.

Naval investigators concluded the sexual encounter in March was not criminal, said Paul Ciccarelli, an agent with Naval Criminal Investigative Service. The pair had a second sexual encounter about two weeks later that didn't include any threats, force, violence, or coercion, Ciccarelli said.

"She asked him to stop, and he did stop," Ciccarelli said, adding that that was the account Lauterbach gave to officials. He said that she still considered both to be cases of rape and that Lauterbach's regimental commander treated her allegations seriously. Her commander was intent on taking the case to an Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a grand jury proceeding.

Authorities believe Laurean fled Jacksonville, N.C., early Friday after leaving a note in which he admitted burying Lauterbach's body. But yesterday, they said he is believed to be hiding and no longer needs to travel quickly or far to avoid capture.

"We believe it's certainly possible, based on him being out there for this long, and not having any sightings, that he is getting help," said Onslow County Sheriff's Captain Rick Sutherland. "We think we have a handle on all his contacts, but there could be someone else out there helping."

Authorities towed Laurean's pickup yesterday after finding it abandoned at a motel parking lot in Morrisville, not far from where it was seen by witnesses in Durham, about 150 miles northwest of Jacksonville. It will be taken back to Onslow County to be processed by the State Bureau of Investigation, said Ciccarelli, an agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. It was unclear how long the truck had been at the Microtel Inn. Sherrie Joyner, who works at the front desk, said Laurean never checked in.

Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown said detectives have not confirmed the validity of reports that he was sighted in Louisiana.

Authorities believe Lauterbach was slain about Dec. 15. Officials have offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to Laurean's arrest.

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