Marine convicted of killing pregnant colleague who accused him of rape

Associated Press
Tuesday, August 24, 2010

GOLDSBORO, N.C. -- A jury Monday convicted a former Marine of first-degree murder in the death of a pregnant colleague who had accused him of rape, a charge that stalled the military career he treasured.

Cesar Laurean, 23, of Las Vegas, was found guilty of killing Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, 20, of Vandalia, Ohio, in December 2007. They were in the same logistics unit at Camp Lejeune, the base in Jacksonville, N.C., that is home to about 50,000 Marines.

The former Marine corporal was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The victim's mother, Mary Lauterbach, read a statement at the sentencing, telling Laurean to look at his mother and see the pain in her face.

"I feel so sorry for your daughter. She will have to live with the shame that her father is in prison for murdering not one but two people," Mary Lauterbach said.

Defense attorney Dick McNeil told the court that Laurean will appeal. The judge ordered the state's appellate defender's office to represent Laurean on appeal.

Laurean also faced charges of robbing Lauterbach of her ATM card and of theft and attempted fraud for trying to use it to withdraw cash. He was found not guilty of the robbery charge but convicted of fraud and theft.

The jury of seven women and five men deliberated for three hours Monday before convicting Laurean.

The rape accusation was never corroborated, and a Marine buddy testified that Laurean told him he and Lauterbach had had consensual sex.

Prosecutors had argued Laurean wanted to get rid of Lauterbach because their encounter threatened to destroy his military career. Even if the sex was consensual, Laurean could have been punished because it is against Marine Corps rules to have sex with a subordinate.

McNeil had argued that prosecutors failed to prove Laurean was the one who swung the crowbar that fractured Lauterbach's skull. He suggested that Laurean's wife, also a Marine, could have exploded in anger and attacked Lauterbach when she showed up at the couple's home on the day she disappeared. Authorities described Christina Laurean as a cooperating witness and have not charged her with any crime.

Laurean, who was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, fled his home and was on the run until police arrested him in April 2009 in the Mexican municipality of Tacambaro. Prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty so Mexican authorities would return Laurean to the United States.

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