For months after Maria Lauterbach accused a fellow Marine of rape, her family says, she continued to work alongside her attacker and endured harassment at Camp Lejeune. In the weeks after the pregnant 20-year-old disappeared, they believe, the local sheriff's department was slow to act.
But naval investigators said the pair had been separated on the job, the rape case was progressing and Cpl. Cesar Armando Laurean was under a protective order to stay away from Lauterbach. The county sheriff insists his department acted as best it could on the facts available.
"As soon as it went suspicious, we contacted the media and asked for help," Sheriff Ed Brown said. "The case did not produce enough evidence, other than she was just missing."
County prosecutor Dewey Hudson said Laurean had been in contact with three attorneys, including Mark E. Raynor, who declined to comment Saturday.
Lauterbach disappeared sometime after Dec. 14, not long after she met with military prosecutors to talk about her April allegation that Laurean raped her. Her uncle, Pete Steiner, said that Lauterbach -- stung by the harassment that eventually forced her to move off base -- decided to drop the case the week before she disappeared.
But Paul Chiccarelli, the special agent in charge of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service at Camp Lejeune, told The Associated Press that Marine commanders submitted requests in October to send the case to the military's version of a grand jury. A military protective order had been automatically issued in May and renewed three times.
"Anytime there is a sexual assault allegation involved, that's a standard routine," he said.
Lauterbach and Laurean served in the same unit of the II Marine Expeditionary Force, and court documents indicate Lauterbach's mother told authorities Laurean had threatened her daughter's career. Steiner said Saturday on ABC's "Good Morning America" the Marines didn't separate the two personnel clerks, but Chiccarelli said Marine commanders assigned them to separate buildings on May 12.