Murder of Maria Lauterbach

Lance Corporal Maria Frances Lauterbach[1] ((1987-11-17)November 17, 1987 – December 14, 2007) of Vandalia, Ohio,[3] was a United States Marine who disappeared from Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina on December 14, 2007.[4] At the time of her disappearance, Lauterbach was eight months pregnant. Authorities found the remains of Maria Lauterbach and her unborn child in the backyard of Corporal Cesar Armando Laurean, who was extradited from Mexico in 2009 and convicted of murder in 2010.

Maria Frances Lauterbach[1]
Lauterbach, c. 2005
Born(1987-11-17)November 17, 1987
Dayton, Ohio, US[2]
DiedDecember 14, 2007(2007-12-14) (aged 20)
Jacksonville, North Carolina, US
AllegianceUnited States
Service/branchUnited States Marine Corps[1]
RankLance Corporal[3]
Unit2nd Marine Logistics Group[2]

The murder prompted Congress to order the Defense Department to make several changes in the way it handles sexual assaults in the ranks.[5]

Maria Lauterbach


Lauterbach grew up in Vandalia, Ohio, where she attended Butler High School. Lauterbach joined the Marines on June 6, 2006. She was a personnel clerk assigned to Combat Logistics Regiment 27, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force.

Background and death


According to her mother, Mary Lauterbach, LCpl. Lauterbach was preparing to testify that she was raped by a fellow Marine. Mary Lauterbach told police that her daughter "claimed she had been raped by a senior Marine at her command, and that the investigation had gone sour."[6] Her father, Victor Lauterbach, had explained that Maria, an adoptive child, had long been troubled. "It all comes from fetal alcohol or fetal drug-use syndromes. Although our adoption agency claimed the child's background was satisfactory, we never met the mother. Maria's history was one of constant trouble—calls from the principals at her schools, arguments at sports activities, and a disrespectful attitude. We felt that enlisting in the Marines would be a turnaround for her, but it was a continuation of a problematic life."[7] Her mother reported her missing on December 19, 2007, five days after their last conversation.[8] Her cellphone was found on December 20, near the main gate at Camp Lejeune.[1]

Authorities found the burned remains of Maria Lauterbach and her unborn child in a fire pit in the backyard of Corporal Cesar Armando Laurean. They also found a large quantity of her blood in Laurean's house in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Laurean was reported as having tried to clean up the scene.[9]

During a press conference on January 11, 2008, Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown reported the death of Lauterbach. Brown stated that authorities "had gotten physical evidence of the woman's death that also linked Laurean to the death."[10] Laurean claims in a note found by his wife that Maria Lauterbach committed suicide by cutting her own throat during an argument at the Laurean home. However, authorities found evidence that pointed to murder in the initial investigation, which was further supported by the autopsy results released in March 2008, which classified the neck wound as post-mortem and insufficient to cause death. The official cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head.[11]

Cesar Laurean

Cesar Armando Laurean
Born (1986-11-13) November 13, 1986 (age 37)[12][13]

Marine Corporal Cesar Laurean (SEH'-sahr LOHR'-ee-uhn), the 21-year-old prime suspect in the case, is the man whom Lauterbach accused of sexually assaulting her.[14] A federal warrant for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution was issued for his arrest on January 12, 2008.[12] The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service issued a wanted flier on him. There was also a $25,000 reward offered by the FBI and $5,000 from the state of North Carolina for information leading to his capture.[15] Onslow County has primary jurisdiction, but the Judge Advocate General's office may bring charges as well, to include but not limited to charges stemming from Laurean's deserter status.[15]

Shortly after the murder, the press reported that Laurean fled to Mexico, his country of birth.[16] Mexican officials issued an arrest warrant for Laurean as a suspect in the killing of his pregnant colleague, a U.S. Embassy official said on January 29 in Mexico City. Interpol also issued an international wanted notice for Laurean.[17][18] A cousin of the corporal informed reporters that Laurean visited family in the area of Guadalajara, Mexico in late January 2008, but left without saying where he was going.[18] America's Most Wanted featured this story on its April 5, 2008 episode.

On April 10, 2008, the FBI announced that Laurean had been apprehended in Tacámbaro, Michoacán, Mexico.[19] The popular press indicated that his extradition might involve at least two years of legal proceedings, considering the relationship between the United States and Mexico. In September 2008, Onslow County District Attorney Dewey Hudson agreed not to seek the death penalty, and a Mexican judge agreed to extradite Laurean.

However, in October 2008, Laurean launched another appeal to the Mexican courts to prevent his extradition, arguing that North Carolina's life-without-parole sentence for first-degree murder is not only barred under the countries' extradition treaty but is considered cruel and unusual punishment. (In North Carolina, a person convicted of first-degree murder can only be sentenced to death or life without parole.)[20] On April 17, 2009, the FBI announced that Laurean had been extradited to the United States and was being held in the Onslow County jail.[21] In December, an Onslow County judge agreed that the trial should be moved to a different county due to the extensive media coverage on the case, and scheduled it to begin on June 28, 2010.[22] In January 2010, Wayne County was selected.[23]

As concern grew through December 2007, Maria's mother, Mary Lauterbach, made frequent appeals for adequate investigation by the Marines.[3] Her advocacy grew until she and Congressional Representatives, such as Rep. Tony Hall, became associated with the cause of safety from sexual predators in the military.[5] Her father Victor was mostly absent from family appearances during the disappearance of and search for Maria. For the most part, the absence was explained as avoiding the observation that the parents' insistence was a conflict of interest with Victor Lauterbach's position in the Ohio National Guard as a Senior Master Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force Reserves.[7] In 2009, Mary Lauterbach filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Laurean and his wife Christina, accusing them of conspiring to conceal the murder.[24]

On August 24, 2010, Laurean was convicted of murder, as well as theft and fraud charges relating to using Lauterbach's ATM card after the murder, and sentenced to life in prison.[25] The jurors dismissed the defense's theory that Christina was in fact the real murderer, favoring the prosecution's argument that Laurean's desperation to save his career led to the incident. He initially conspired with Lauterbach to run to Mexico, supposedly with the intent of destroying her credibility with the desertion and continuing his career in the Corps, but reverted to killing her with a crowbar when that failed.[26]

See also



  1. ^ a b c d "Investigators Seeking Missing Pregnant Marine's Male Roommate". Fox News. January 10, 2008. Retrieved August 27, 2016.
  2. ^ a b [1] [dead link]
  3. ^ a b c "Police: Suspect In Slain Marine Case Spotted In Louisiana". WHIO-TV. January 10, 2008. Archived from the original on January 14, 2008. Retrieved January 11, 2008.
  4. ^ "Police: Mom told us pregnant Marine is a 'compulsive liar'". CNN. January 11, 2008. Retrieved August 27, 2016.
  5. ^ a b McCarty, Mary (December 25, 2011). "Lauterbach assault case prompts policy reforms". Dayton Daily News. Retrieved July 11, 2022.
  6. ^ "Missing, pregnant Marine alleged rape". NBC News. January 10, 2008. Retrieved August 27, 2016.
  7. ^ a b Statements made at Eastman Kodak Company, Dayton, December 17, 2007.
  8. ^ Holusha, John; O'Connor, Anahad (January 11, 2008). "Marine's Body Reportedly Found". The New York Times. Retrieved August 27, 2016.
  9. ^ "N.C. Investigators Issue Warrant in 'Disgusting' Murder of Pregnant Marine". Fox News. January 13, 2008. Retrieved August 27, 2016.
  10. ^ "Blood, possible grave of pregnant Marine found at suspect's house". CNN. January 11, 2008. Retrieved August 27, 2016.
  11. ^ "Autopsy: Marine's neck wound could be post-mortem". CNN. March 14, 2008. Retrieved June 17, 2018.
  12. ^ a b "Unlawful Flight To Avoid Prosecution - Murder Cesar Armando Laurean". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Archived from the original on January 17, 2008. Retrieved January 21, 2008.
  13. ^ "Search Warrant" (PDF). CNN. January 17, 2008. Retrieved April 1, 2012.
  14. ^ "Arrest warrant issued in case of dead Marine". NBC News. January 12, 2008. Retrieved August 27, 2016.
  15. ^ a b "Reward offered in pregnant Marine murder case". Marine Corps Times. The Associated Press. March 5, 2008. Archived from the original on March 13, 2008. Retrieved March 25, 2008.
  16. ^ Thomas, Pierre; Cohen, Jose (January 23, 2008). "Suspect in Marine Death Believed in Mexico". ABC News. Retrieved August 27, 2016.
  17. ^ [2][dead link]
  18. ^ a b "Mexico issues warrant for Laurean a week after sighting". CNN. January 28, 2008. Archived from the original on November 25, 2010. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  19. ^ "Suspect in pregnant Marine's death in custody". NBC News. Associated Press. April 11, 2008. Retrieved April 11, 2008.
  20. ^ "Marine fights extradition in killing of pregnant corporal". CNN. October 14, 2008. Archived from the original on October 15, 2008. Retrieved October 14, 2008.
  21. ^ [3] [dead link]
  22. ^ Talton, Trista (December 8, 2009). "Former Cpl. to face murder trial this summer". Marine Corps Times. Archived from the original on March 8, 2012. Retrieved December 9, 2009.
  23. ^ "It's Official: Laurean Case Moved To Wayne County". WITN-TV. January 25, 2010. Archived from the original on July 18, 2011. Retrieved January 25, 2010.
  24. ^ Talton, Trista (December 28, 2009). "Mother of slain Marine files suit against couple". Marine Corps Times. Jacksonville, North Carolina. p. 6.
  25. ^ "Former Marine Gets Life in Prison for Killing Pregnant Colleague". Fox News. Associated Press. August 24, 2010. Retrieved August 24, 2010.
  26. ^ Dalesio, Emery P. (August 25, 2010). "Laurean sentenced to life in prison". Marine Corps Times. Associated Press. Archived from the original on March 22, 2012. Retrieved September 8, 2010.