VANDALIA, Ohio – Even as it prepared to say its final goodbyes, the family of a slain pregnant Marine continued to question whether military and civilian authorities adequately responded when she disappeared in December.
The funeral Mass for Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach on Saturday was expected to draw hundreds to St. Christopher Catholic Church near Dayton. U.S. authorities have said the man suspected of killing her, Marine Cpl. Cesar Laurean, has likely fled to Mexico.
Lauterbach, 20, had accused Laurean of rape in May, a charge he denied. Both were stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Lauterbach's family issued a statement Friday reiterating concerns about how authorities handled her rape claim.
Naval investigators have said they have no evidence to corroborate the claim, but Lauterbach and Laurean's regimental commander was intent on taking the case to a hearing that could have led to a trial.
"Published reports and official statements have included some assertions that are inconsistent, illogical, and misleading," Lauterbach's family said in the statement, issued through attorneys. "There are many unanswered questions, and we are continuing to review and evaluate the information that has been released."
The family has previously said Lauterbach had been harassed at Camp Lejeune and blamed the Marines for not protecting her. She failed to show up for work in mid-December, and her burned remains were found with those of her fetus last month in a fire pit in the backyard of Laurean's house in Jacksonville, N.C.
Despite lingering questions, the family said it was confident that civilian and military authorities would conduct a complete investigation of Lauterbach's rape claim, her disappearance and Laurean's flight.
Laurean, who was born in Mexico, is being sought on an indictment charging first-degree murder. He fled North Carolina after leaving a note for his wife saying Lauterbach cut her own throat and that he had buried her body, authorities said.
Capt. Rick Sutherland of the Onslow County, N.C., sheriff's office said Friday the office was committed to apprehending the person responsible for Lauterbach's death.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Maria this weekend during the Mass of the Christian burial of Maria and her child," Sutherland said.