VANDALIA, Ohio – The American flag-draped casket of a slain pregnant Marine was accompanied by a smaller one holding her unborn child during calling hours that drew hundreds of people to pay their respects.
A steady stream of mourners snaked through St. Christopher Catholic Church in this western Ohio community near Dayton during the four-hour visitation Thursday evening for Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, whose killing has touched off a manhunt.
Cpl. Cesar Laurean is suspected of killing Lauterbach, 20, and fleeing to Mexico, where authorities have issued an arrest warrant.
Lauterbach's charred remains were found last month with those of her fetus in a fire pit in Laurean's backyard near Camp Lejeune, N.C., where both Marines were stationed.
Lauterbach was from Vandalia and Laurean is from Clark County, Nev.
Joannie Copeland, 39, of Dayton, and Stacey Hodkey, 29, of Vandalia, said they have watched the family grieve in the glare of national media attention.
"The focus needs to be on what's important — Maria and the life she led," Hodkey said.
Elise Wahle, youth ministry coordinator at St. Christopher, read a statement from both the church and family thanking the community and the nation for the outpouring of prayers and support.