JACKSONVILLE, N.C. – An intern at a North Carolina district attorney's office was arrested Friday after investigators said he offered to sell confidential documents in a high-profile case of a slain pregnant Marine for an "astronomical" fee to an undercover agent.
Robert Paul Sharpe, 33, of Jacksonville was charged with embezzlement and misdemeanor larceny for taking files in the murder case against Marine Cpl. Cesar Laurean, who is accused of killing Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach and burying her burned body in his backyard.
Sharpe is accused of taking 6,000 pages and 30 computer disks of investigative files, law enforcement reports and other documents while working in the office of Onslow County District Attorney Dewey Hudson. Sharpe had access to the file to make copies for Dick McNeil, Laurean's defense attorney.
"I am confident that none of the documents have been released," Hudson said, noting that only senior prosecutors now have access to the file. "I was shocked that something like this would occur. I never dreamed it would. I deeply regret that this happened."
McNeil said he was blindsided by the news and commended the sheriff's office for taking quick action.
Sharpe, a former Marine, was arrested Friday around 2 a.m. outside Hudson's office with about a dozen expandable brown folders and several CDs, investigators said. Sheriff's office deputies searched his car and house but didn't find additional copies of the file. He began his internship in May.
Sheriff's deputies became aware of Sharpe after he boasted on a local newspaper's blog that he had access to the Laurean file.
Sheriff Ed Brown said Sharpe offered the documents to a sheriff's deputy posing as a reporter for a news magazine and asked for an "astronomical" amount of money. He declined to specify the dollar amount.
"It was way out of reason. The suspect in this case thought his information was worth a whole lot more. It was more than you could by a steak with," Brown said.
Sharpe was released on a $10,000 unsecured bond and did not return repeated calls for comment Friday. Sharpe is senior studying political science at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, college spokeswoman Dana Fischetti said.
Lauterbach, 20, of Vandalia, Ohio, was eight months pregnant when she disappeared in December. Her burned remains, and those of her unborn child, were found in January in a shallow grave in the backyard of Laurean's home near Camp Lejeune, a sprawling military base on the North Carolina coast.
Laurean, who Lauterbach had accused of rape, fled to Mexico when investigators began questioning him in her disappearance. He was arrested there in April and is awaiting extradition. He has been charged with first-degree murder but cannot face the death penalty under an agreement with Mexican authorities.
"Based on what Mr. Hudson and Sheriff Brown said it appears they nipped this ... so this information didn't get out," said McNeil, Laurean's attorney. "Out of that 6,000 pages I am sure there is going to be information that isn't going to be admissable for whatever reason. I think it is pretty fortunate on behalf of my client that they were able to stop this."