A Marine suspected in the murder of his pregnant comrade has been arrested in Mexico. FBI agents and local police in the small town of Tacambaro arrested Cpl. Cesar Laurean on Thursday after a three-month international manhunt.
He faces first-degree murder charges in the death of Marine Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach. Her charred remains were found in January in the backyard of his home near Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Lauterbach had accused Laurean of raping her.
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Laurean told authorities that while in Mexico, he had slept in fields and survived by eating fruit that he found.
Extradition Could Take a Year or More
Bearded, thin and shackled at the wrists and ankles, Laurean and two officers flanking him, stood for a photo opportunity for the press at the Michoacan state Attorney General's Office in Morelia,
The FBI said Laurean, 21, is awaiting extradition to the U.S. But local prosecutors in North Carolina say it could take a year or more for him to return to the state to face charges.
Magdalena Guzman, a prosecutors' spokeswoman, said police carrying out an anti-kidnapping operation stopped Laurean as he wandered on a street because they thought he looked suspicious.
When they realized he didn't speak Spanish well, their suspicions grew. After doing a computer check - and recognizing his distinctive tattoos - they realized Laurean was wanted in the United States to face charges in Lauterbach's death.
Guzman said Laurean told the arresting officers he had only 10 pesos - about $1 - in his pocket when arrested.
U.S. Ambassador Tony Garza said in a statement that "Laurean fled to Mexico early this year in the hope of avoiding justice" and called the arrest "a clear message to all would-be fugitives from U.S. law that Mexico will not provide them refuge."
Laurean, of Las Vegas, was born in Guadalajara, but family members there have said he moved to the U.S. more than ten years ago.
He had told members of his unit that he would go to Mexico if it appeared he would be found guilty of rape.
Left Note Admitting He Buried Her
Lauterbach and Laurean were both personnel clerks in the same logistics unit at Camp Lejeune, an expansive coastal North Carolina Marine base. Detectives believe Laurean killed Lauterbach, who was 20 and eight months pregnant, on Dec. 14 after forcing her to remove money from her bank account.
Authorities have said Laurean left behind a note for his wife in which he denied killing the lance corporal, but admitted to burying her remains. In the note, Laurean claimed Lauterbach committed suicide by cutting her own throat.
Prosecutors say the evidence indicates Lauterbach died from a blow to the head.
Lauterbach accused Laurean of rape last year, however Naval investigators were unable to prove the allegation. The Marines have said their regimental commander was intending on taking Lauterbach's case to a hearing, which might have led to a trial.
Onslow County District Attorney Dewey Hudson has agreed not to seek execution in order to win the cooperation of Mexico. Mexico refuses to extradite anyone back to the states, unless they are assured the accused will not face a death sentence.
Source: The Associated Press