JACKSONVILLE, N.C. – Federal authorities were posting billboards nationwide with the picture of a Marine wanted in the slaying of a pregnant colleague, and the sheriff announced a $25,000 reward Monday for information leading to his arrest.
Authorities are looking for Marine Cpl. Cesar Armando Laurean, wanted in the death of Marine Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, who had accused him of rape.
"The search for Laurean is Earthwide," Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown said Monday.
Federal marshals have spoken with Laurean's family, but Brown refused on Monday to discuss what authorities learned from his relatives. He said Laurean and his wife have an 18-month-old daughter.
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Brown again said that Laurean's wife is cooperating with authorities, and confidently predicted that Laurean will be caught.
"You're never gone for good when law enforcement is after you," Brown said Monday. "It may be two days or two weeks, ten days or ten years, but you're never gone for good."
Lauterbach disappeared sometime after Dec. 14, not long after she met with military prosecutors to talk about her April allegation that Laurean raped her.
Over the weekend, authorities recovered what they believe to be the burned remains of Lauterbach and her unborn child from a fire pit in Laurean's backyard, where they suspect he burned and buried her body.
Naval investigators said Saturday the rape case was progressing, the fellow personnel clerks had been assigned to different buildings, and that Laurean had been under a protective order to stay away from Lauterbach.
Brown said Monday that police believe she was killed on or about Dec. 15, and state authorities have issued an arrest warrant for Laurean, 21, of the Las Vegas area, on murder charges. The FBI is also seeking him on a warrant charging him with to unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.
Detectives believe he fled Jacksonville before dawn Friday, and said he left behind a note in which he admitted burying her body but claimed she cut her own throat in a suicide. Authorities received Laurean's note about the purported suicide from Laurean's wife, whose family has described her as "heartbroken."
Brown has challenged Laurean's assertion that Lauterbach killed herself, citing what he described as evidence of a violent confrontation inside Laurean's home — blood spatters on the ceiling and a massive amount of blood on the wall.
Lauterbach's mother reported her daughter missing Dec. 19. She had been placed on "unauthorized absence" status by the Marine Corps and was listed that day in a national law enforcement database as a "missing person at risk."
Naval investigators said authorities didn't consider Laurean a threat to Lauterbach, or later a flight risk, because they had indications the pair were on friendly terms. Laurean later refused to meet with investigators and left town without telling his lawyers where he was going.