VANDALIA, Ohio – Hundreds of mourners, carrying signs and arriving on motorcycles, filed into a church Saturday morning to honor a pregnant Ohio Marine found dead in North Carolina.
The funeral Mass for Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach drew a throng to St. Christopher Catholic Church near Dayton. U.S. authorities have said the man suspected of killing her in December, Marine Cpl. Cesar Laurean, has likely fled to Mexico.
Attending the funeral were about 200 members of the Patriot Guard, a veterans group who ride to military funerals on their motorcycles. A makeshift sign made of plastic foam cups read, "We Love You, Maria."
Lauterbach, 20, had accused Laurean of rape last May, a charged he denied. Both were stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
The family issued a statement Friday through attorneys reiterating concerns about how authorities handled Lauterbach's rape claim.
Naval investigators have said they have no evidence to corroborate the claim, but Lauterbach's 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. "There are many unanswered questions, and we are continuing to review and evaluate the information that has been released."
The family has previously stated that Lauterbach had been harassed at Camp Lejeune and blamed the Marines for not protecting her. Lauterbach 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 back yard of Laurean's house in Jacksonville, N.C.
Despite lingering questions, the family said it is confident that state and military authorities will conduct a complete investigation of Lauterbach's rape claim, her disappearance and Laurean's flight.
Laurean is being sought on an indictment charging first-degree murder. He was born in Mexico and fled after leaving a note for his wife in North Carolina saying Lauterbach cut her own throat and that he had buried her body, authorities said.
Capt. Rick Sutherland of the sheriff's office in Onslow County, N.C., said Friday that the office is committed to apprehending the person responsible for Lauterbach's death and remains available to help the family in any way it can.
"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.