N.C. grand jury indicts Marine

January 24, 2008 8:43:57 AM PST
A grand jury indicted a Marine corporal Thursday on a first-degree murder charge in the death of a pregnant colleague, but a prosecutor said he wouldn't seek the death penalty if the man is arrested in Mexico. Authorities believe Marine Cpl. Cesar Laurean has fled to his native Mexico, which refuses to send anyone back to the United States unless provided assurances they won't face the death penalty.

"This agreement to not seek the death penalty applies only if he is arrested in and extradited from Mexico," said Onslow County District Attorney Dewey Hudson.

The remains of Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, 20, were found with those of her fetus earlier this month in a fire pit in Laurean's back yard. Lauterbach, who had once accused Laurean of rape, had been missing since mid December

Before Laurean fled from Jacksonville in early January, he left a note for his wife, Christina, that said Lauterbach slit her own throat with a knife, and he then buried her in the woods near their home. Detective have rejected that claim, and an autopsy found that Lauterbach died of blunt force trauma to the head.

Hudson said the grand jury also charged Laurean with robbery with a dangerous weapon and a charge involving an unauthorized financial transaction involving card theft. The indictment states Laurean forced Lauterbach to remove money from her bank account on Dec. 14, the same day authorities believe he killed her.

But because authorities have determined that Lauterbach's child had not been born at the time of her death, Hudson said, prosecutors could only charge Laurean with one count of murder.