Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown announced today the issuance of a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of a fugitive wanted in the grisly killing of a pregnant North Carolina Marine.
Brown also said that an ATM card belonging to the dead Marine, Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, was found last week at the bus station in Durham.
That was "an interesting discovery," Brown said, because it coincided with reports from people in the Durham and Raleigh area that they may have seen a pickup truck belonging to the fugitive, Marine Cpl. Cesar Armando Laurean.
The reward, Brown said, "is enough to cause a reasonable person to be interested." He said his next major announcement is likely to be that Laurean has been found, thanks to a nationwide manhunt.
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Laurean, 21, faces a first-degree murder charge in the death last month of Lauterbach, 20, of Ohio.
Brown suggested Laurean may be getting help in his flight. "He's got friends out there, even though he's committed this horrible crime," Brown said. But he said he hoped Laurean would be in contact with his family and that his family would encourage him to surrender.
Walter Paramore, an area lawyer, has been appointed to represent Laurean on the murder charge.
Authorities think he killed Lauterbach, who had accused him of rape and was about eight months pregnant, then burned and buried her in his backyard.
Lauterbach's family has said authorities did not aggressively investigate her rape allegation against Laurean. Sheriff's officials said the rape had allegedly happened on the Camp Lejuene military base and had not been reported to civilian authorities.
Investigators in Jacksonville recently took Laurean's wife, Christina, back to the couple's home in the Half Moon community near Jacksonville, where investigators had found evidence of a bloody incident. That included bloodstains in the house and the charred remains of a woman authorities think is Lauterbach and her unborn baby, its tiny hand clasped in death.
Brown said today that Laurean's wife was a cooperating witness in the investigation. He said several days ago that she turned over a letter Friday in which her husband claimed that he buried Lauterbach after the pregnant Marine killed herself.
Wanda Alander, who lives next door to the Laureans, said officers escorted Christina Laurean into the house around 1 p.m. Sunday. They left shortly afterward.
Richard Alander, Wanda's husband, said the two of them had discussed additional recollections about the Laureans with investigators Sunday.
Earlier this week, the Alanders said Cesar Laurean had borrowed a shovel several weeks ago. They said Laurean used to tie his small, poodle-like dog to a tree in the backyard but in recent weeks had been tying the dog to a stake in the front yard.
The tree in back was near a burn pit where authorities Saturday removed human remains they think are those of Lauterbach and her unborn child. Dr. Charles Garrett, Onslow County medical examiner, said the remains would be taken to the Chief Medical Examiner's office in Chapel Hill for further examination to determine identity and cause of death.
The macabre findings at the scene, especially the baby's tiny burned hand, were disturbing, said Brown. It also indicated that Laurean was dangerous. "He would be dangerous if you got him in a bind," the sheriff said.