JACKSONVILLE, N.C. – Police confirmed Tuesday a truck found at a hotel parking lot belongs to a Marine on the run who is accused of murdering a 20-year-old Marine and her unborn child.
The manhunt for Cpl. Cesar Armando Laurean, the suspect in Lauterbach's murder, stretched into its fourth day with a $25,000 reward and a national billboard campaign. His truck was spotted at a Microtel Inn in Morrisville, N.C.
Officials positively identified the burned remains found in Laurean's backyard of Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, reported missing on Dec. 19. Lauterbach died from a blunt force trauma to the head, according to an autopsy report.
"He’s probably where he wants to be and can move at a more slower, unattractive pace," Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown told FOX News Tuesday. "So now it’s probably going to be the results of people in the community where he’s at recognizing he’s a stranger, or different, and comparing his photograph to those that he sees on TV and on the billboards."
Laurean didn't violated the military protective order directing him to stay away from Lauterbach, said Col. Gary Skolowski, the judge advocate general officer for the II Marine Expeditionary Force.
"At no time did she indicate that she was threatened by Cpl. Laurean," Skolowski said. "When she was asked if she felt threatened by Cpl. Laurean, she said she did not feel threatened."
Lauterbach disappeared sometime after Dec. 14. The Dayton native had recently met with military prosecutors to talk about her April allegation that Laurean raped her.
Over the weekend, authorities recovered the remains of Lauterbach and her unborn child from a fire pit in Laurean's backyard in Jacksonville, N.C.
Dr. Charles Garrett, the Onslow County medical examiner, said Lauterbach died from "traumatic head injury due to blunt force trauma."
Inside St. Christopher Catholic Church in Vandalia, Ohio, about 10 miles north of Dayton, hundreds of friends offered prayers Monday for Lauterbach.
"This evening, we are suffering," the Rev. Francis Keferl told a spillover crowd of more than 800 people.
A table outside the sanctuary held family photos of Lauterbach as a young girl huddled with siblings on a couch and blowing out birthday candles.
Lauterbach's mother, Mary, dabbed at her eyes during the 40-minute service. A congregant gave her a pink rose.
Mary Lauterbach has said the physical demands of the Marines appealed to her daughter, and that she liked boot camp. Her father, Victor Lauterbach, is an Air Force Reserve master sergeant, and the couple adopted Maria as a baby. They have four other children.
"She joined the Marine Corps for a big challenge," said Marine Staff Sgt. Sam Mao, a recruiter in Huber Heights, where she joined the Marines in 2006. "She was determined to succeed."
On Saturday, authorities issued an arrest warrant on murder charges for Laurean, 21, of the Las Vegas area. They believe he fled Jacksonville before dawn on Friday, leaving behind a note in which he admitted to burying her body but said Lauterbach cut her own throat in a suicide.
Brown, who has rejected the idea that Lauterbach committed suicide, said late Monday that authorities had received a preliminary autopsy report on the remains. He declined to discuss details, other than to say a gun was not used.
Lauterbach's ATM card was found at a bus station in Durham, about 150 miles northwest of Jacksonville. Witnesses reported seeing his black four-door pickup truck in the Raleigh and Durham area, Brown said.
Other witnesses said they thought they saw him Saturday night at a bus station in Shreveport, La.
The FBI and United States Marshals are involved in the search for Laurean, who is expected to be charged with murder when he is arrested. The first billboards with Laurean's photo went up in Columbus, Ohio, and others are expected in Tampa, Fla., and Las Vegas.
Onslow County District Attorney Dewey Hudson said he has no plans to step aside for a military prosecution. That makes it unlikely that Laurean would be prosecuted under the federal fetal homicide law passed in 2004 during the height of attention to the California trial of Scott Peterson, who was accused of murdering his pregnant wife, Laci. The law makes it a crime to harm a fetus during the assault of a pregnant woman.
The military could seek charges at the same time as civilian authorities, said Scott Silliman, a former military lawyer who is now director of the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security at Duke University. But a joint prosecution is not recommended by the military's manual for courts-martial, Silliman said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.