Monday, August 23, 2010

Former Marine convicted in North Carolina of killing female colleague

By the CNN Wire Staff
August 23, 2010 6:47 p.m. EDT

(CNN) -- Former U.S. Marine Cesar Laurean was convicted in North Carolina on Monday of first degree murder in the 2007 death of Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, who was eight months pregnant when she died.

An autopsy showed that Lauterbach, 20, died of blunt force trauma to the head. Police unearthed her charred body from beneath a barbecue pit in Laurean's backyard in January 2008. She had disappeared the month before.

Laurean, who was dressed in black slacks and wore a white shirt and black tie, did not show any emotion as the judge read his sentence. He either said or mouthed something to someone in the audience of the courtroom before he was led out in handcuffs, video showed.

Laurean and Lauterbach were stationed together at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

North Carolina prosecutors alleged Laurean killed Lauterbach on December 14 and used her ATM card 10 days later before fleeing to Mexico.Laurean was arrested there in April 2008. He holds dual citizenship in the United States and Mexico.

Before her death, Lauterbach told the Marines that Laurean had raped her. Laurean denied it, and disappeared just a few weeks before a scheduled rape hearing at Camp LeJeune.

The DNA of Lauterbach's unborn child did not match that of Laurean, according to law enforcement personnel.

Authorities found Lauterbach's body after Laurean's wife, Christina, produced a note her husband had written claiming the 20-year-old woman slit her own throat during an argument, according to officials.

Although a gaping 4-inch wound was found on the left side of Lauterbach's neck, autopsy results indicated that the wound itself would not have been fatal and may have occurred after death.

Asked by a Mexican reporter at the time of his arrest whether he killed Lauterbach, Laurean replied, "I loved her."

Laurean's lawyer said his client would appeal the decision

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