JACKSONVILLE, N.C. – A Marine charged with killing a pregnant colleague who had accused him of rape was active online for months as a fugitive, according to court documents released Wednesday.
The documents offer a comprehensive look at the monthslong search for Cpl. Cesar Laurean, who is charged in the death of Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, 20, of Vandalia, Ohio.
Though he fled to Mexico in January, Laurean's constant contact with his wife and family eventually led to his arrest in April.
According to motions filed by prosecutors, he frequently logged into an e-mail account belonging to his wife, Christina, and left her messages. A person using a computer in Mexico City also accessed the couple's joint bank account.
The wife refused to help him and has cooperated with authorities.
Though police had a few close calls tracking Internet cafes where they believe Laurean went online, they did not catch him until they used phone records from a calling card that was given to him by a confidential witness working with authorities. He was arrested April 10 in San Juan de la Vina in the Mexican municipality of Tacambaro.
When FBI agents searched his home computer shortly after he fled, prosecutors said they found online research into buying property and finding a job in Mexico. They also found Laurean was following online news coverage of the search for Lauterbach before her burned remains were found buried in his backyard in North Carolina.
Laurean had told friends that he would flee to Mexico if it appeared he would be convicted of rape. But Onslow County Sheriff's Capt. Rick Sutherland said evidence suggests he didn't start planning to flee until after Lauterbach's disappearance.
Laurean is awaiting extradition, a process that could take a year or more. His lawyer, W.H. Paramore III, was in court Wednesday and unavailable for comment, an employee in his office said.
The burned remains of Lauterbach and her fetus were found in a shallow grave in Laurean's backyard Jan. 11. Investigators said Lauterbach likely was killed in mid-December.
Few details have been released on exactly how Lauterbach was killed. But Sutherland said Wednesday that investigators are confident they know what happened to her, after examining soil samples taken from the yard and the defendant's vehicle.
One document not released Wednesday is a note Laurean left for his wife before he fled. Detectives have said Laurean denied killing Lauterbach in the note, claiming she committed suicide and he buried her.
Laurean and Lauterbach were assigned to the same logistics unit at Camp Lejeune, a sprawling base on the North Carolina coast that is home to about 50,000 Marines. Lauterbach accused Laurean of rape a year ago, but naval investigators were unable to corroborate the allegation. She initially claimed that Laurean was the father of her child but later recanted.
The two were separated on base, even though Lauterbach told investigators she did not feel Laurean posed a danger or threat to her. The Marines have said their regimental commander was intent on taking the case to a hearing that could have led to a trial.