On December 14, 2007, Maria Lauterbach disappeared in Jacksonville, NC. On January 10th of this year, local police investigators found her body and that of her unborn child buried under a fire pit in the back yard of 103 Meadow Trail in the Half Moon community, just outside the Jacksonville city limits. This week it was announced that the home, owned by Cesar Laurean and his wife, would be sold “As is, where is” at a foreclosure auction on January 5, 2009. The sale is being handled by the firm of Brock and Scott, PLLC, of nearby Wilmington, NC. A foreclosure notice set to display later in the month in the Jacksonville Daily News will detail the specifics of the house and property. From outward appearances it is a ranch style house of red brick and white siding with an attached garage.
This is just the latest twist in a case that still has far more questions than answers. Maria Lauterbach was a Lance Corporal in the Marine Corps., stationed at Camp Lejeune, NC. Maria Lauterbach began to date Cesar :Laurean in the Spring of 2007. By May, she learned that he was married to Lance Cpl. Christina Laurean, also stationed at Camp Lejeune. The Laureans have a young child together. On May 11, 2007, Maria reported to her command “two incidents of a sexual nature”, and she filed a complaint with the NCIS. She was given a pregnancy test at that time and it was negative. After NCIS opened a rape investigation, Maria was reassigned to a different office and Laurean was ordered to maintain a distance from her of 1000 feet. On May 18, Laurean was interviewed by NCIS agents and denied that he had any sexual contact with her. She fell ill on June 27, and was given another pregnancy test. Her date of conception was estimated to be May 14, which was after she made the original allegations of rape, which had allegedly occurred in April. Over the summer, Maria was apparently harrassed at work by people other than Laurean. Someone keyed her car and she was slapped at one point by another Marine, according to the press conference held by Camp Lejeune officials in January of this year. The NCIS decided in October to wait until the baby was born and do a DNA test to determine if Laurean was the father before proceeding with the case. In November, Sgt. Daniel Durham let Maria Lauterbach move into his home in Midway Park because of her situation. On the day that she disappeared, there were no formal charges against Cesar Laurean at the time and he was not considered a flight risk or a danger to Maria.
Ms. Lauterbach left a note for her roommate saying that she was leaving, and disappeared December 14 from the Midway Park area, several miles from Half Moon where Laurean lived. Her car was eventually located at the bus station, where it had apparently been for several days. Questions abound about how she got from Midway Park to Laurean’s home in Half Moon, and exactly how the car got back to the bus station. Did she go to his house of her own free will? To tell him that she was going UA and that the case against him would be over? It wouldn’t be, of course. Once she made the allegations, his military career was over, whether he was ever convicted of any of the charges against him or not. Did they fight over that and he murdered her? And what about his wife? The District Attorney’s office has repeatedly declined to charge his wife with anything. His wife presented the authorities with a note saying she was buried in the back yard and they recovered the body on January 10th. Laurean had supposedly left the note and left town the day before. The neighbors were very forthcoming with stories of how his wife came over and borrowed a shovel in the later part of December, and about the fire and how terrible it smelled and of the crowd of Marines that were present that day, also near the end of December. They also told news media of how Laurean’s wife complained about having to repaint rooms of the house. To cover up the blood? After he left and before his capture, his wife was in contact with him by phone, but this is also supposedly something that is not a criminal act.
Laurean’s wife is still stationed here in the Marine Corps at Camp Lejeune. She was recently granted leave by the Marine Corps. to travel to Mexico and visit her husband. The District Attorney’s office in Onslow County agreed to not seek the death penalty and it was assumed that he would be returned here for trial shortly. However, he has appealed again on the basis of the fact that his only other sentencing option should he be found guilty is life without parole. He is petitioning the Mexican Government for assistance on the basis that this is cruel and unusual puinishment as well. He has allegedly killed a twenty year old woman and her unborn child. While NC law does not provide for a separate charge of murder for the death of an unborn baby, you really have to wonder what this guy’s thought process is. He is charged with being responsible for the deaths of two people. What does HE think is appropriate punishment? Whether the first contact between them was rape or consensual, he was a married man pursuing a younger woman under his command. For those of you not familiar with military law, he was in violation of it on several fronts, besides the fact that he was apparently giving no consideration to the effect of his actions on his wife and child. This entire situation came from actions initiated by him.
So, on January 5, 2009, the scene of the crime will be sold to the highest bidder. The housing market here in Jacksonville is not in the dismal shape that it is in the rest of the country. This area is expecting an influx of at least eleven thousand permanent active duty Marines and their families in the next couple of years. New homes are going up on every empty patch of land and there is little problem selling existing ones. If a real estate company buys it with an eye to reselling it, they will have to inform any prosepective buyers of the house’s history.
The crowds of sightseers and the hoards of national media reporters are long gone. The yard is overgrown with weeds that have turned brown with the recent frosts. Very little is reported on the case these days. We were reminded of it briefly a couple of times this year when other military women in the area, one of whom was also pregnant, were murdered. When asked about the case recently, DA Dewey Hudson replied that he is very busy these days preparing for fifty four other homicide cases that his office is prosecuting. The case that once occupied every newscast for days is quietly fading away. And now soon, someone else will occupy the house at 103 Meadow Trail.
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