Police may be closing on fugitive


Published: Monday, January 14, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 14, 2008 at 12:00 a.m.

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. - The key suspect in the brutal slaying of a 20-year-old pregnant Marine was spotted in Louisiana and could be headed into Texas, authorities said Sunday.

Marine Cpl. Cesar Armando Laurean was seen at a Greyhound bus station in Shreveport, La., Saturday night by several fellow passengers, said Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown. The bus Laurean was riding was headed to Texas, he said, but authorities didn't know yet if he continued on that route.

"We're working with the U.S. Marshal's Service and other law enforcement agencies trying to locate him,'' Shreveport police Chief Henry Whitehorn Sr. told The Associated Press. "We don't know if he is still in the area. We believe it may have just been a pass through.''

Federal officials said Sunday they had issued a fugitive warrant for his arrest.

Brown said earlier that evidence in the case "leads us to believe that he would be a dangerous and violent person if put in a corner.''

Authorities said Saturday they found what they believe to be the remains of Marine Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach and her unborn child from a fire pit in Laurean's backyard, where they suspect he burned and buried her body. The remains were sent to the state medical examiner's office in Chapel Hill for a formal identification.

That same day, authorities issued a murder warrant for Laurean, 21, of the Las Vegas area. They believe he fled Jacksonville before dawn Friday after leaving behind a note in which he admitted burying her body but claimed Lauterbach cut her own throat in a suicide.

The federal warrant announced Sunday charges Laurean with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, said FBI officials in Charlotte. Bureau spokesman Newsom Summerlin said that while investigators don't have any reason to believe he's fled the country, that remains a possibility.

Lauterbach had 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 Laurean was under a protective order to stay away from Lauterbach.

Shreveport is roughly 950 miles southwest of Jacksonville, and is about two dozen miles from the Texas state line.

Authorities said earlier Sunday they could be less than two hours behind the fugitive, and Brown expressed hope that Laurean would be in custody soon.

"We're doing everything we can to make sure he doesn't go any further than where he's at,'' Brown said.

Brown said the FBI, federal Marshals, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation were hunting for Laurean. Sheriff's investigators were at the scene developing evidence, he said.

"While finding him is a main concern, the major concern is that we continue the investigation to clearly find the truth in what happened,'' he said.

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

Authorities received Laurean's note about the purported suicide from Laurean's wife, whom Brown has said is cooperating with authorities. Her family has described her as "heartbroken.''

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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