Friday, January 18, 2008

Laurean, Lauterbach, and the Inability to Communicate

As is being reported widely in the news, there is a massive manhunt on for Marine Cpl. Cesar Laurean because he allegedly killed fellow Marine Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach. That's not all, however, as this involves a Marine love triangle. Laurean is married to Marine Christina Laurean and allegedly raped Lauterbach. However, evidence that has come out stating Lauterbach was a compulsive liar and attempted to withdraw the rape allegations against Laurean has complicated the issue immensely and could lead one to think that Lauterbach and Laurean may or may not have been romantically involved. There is another aspect of the case that is disturbing, as well.

The communication between the two law enforcement agencies involved - the Onslow County Sheriff's Department and Marine officials - has been horrible. When Lauterbach failed to show up to work on December 17th the Marines immediately began looking for her, declaring her a deserter in order to open up the use of federal resources to find Lauterbach. Additionally, the last time Lauterbach's family heard from her was December 14, and she was reported missing on December 19. Marine officials have said that the Onslow County Sheriff's Dept. did not contact them about the case until December 27, more than a week after Lauterbach was reported missing. Details about the case, which included key facts such as the discovery of Lauterbach's cell phone on a highway outside of her base's gate (Camp Lejeune), the discovery of Lauterbach's car at a local bus station, and an unauthorized use of her debit card by a man who covered his face while withdrawing money, were held back from Marine officials until January 9.

It's not just the civilian cops who kept information to themselves, however. It seems that the protective order put out on Laurean by Lauterbach following the rape allegation was information that the Marines felt did not need to be shared with Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown, the local DA or the base commander (I do not know whether this is a civilian or Marine post). Thus, when the cops talked to Laurean on January 8 they interviewed him simply as a witness and not a possible suspect.

This is unbelievable. Both sides (Onslow County and the Marines) had information that was crucial to the investigation that, by itself, offered little insight to what was going on, but together was telling of what happened. If someone dissapeared who claimed that a coworker raped her, but was proven to be a compulsive liar and may not have actually been raped by said coworker, goes missing, who would you focus on? I would make damn sure that Laurean was not involved in any way, including tailing him and doing whatever possible to keep tabs on him.

It seems like a bit of a tough call to point to Laurean at first due to her history of lying (according both to Lauterbach's mother and the NCIS). She also insisted that she was raped in March and April, but admitted to having consensual sex with Laurean, at first claiming that he fathered her unborn child, then reneging and saying that he did not (per the LA Times article). She also left a note saying she was, essentially, running away. Laurean still would be on my radar, given the two's past encounters. Of course, had the two authorities communicated with each other, then they would have known about both the protective order against Laurean and the strange man withdrawing money from Lauterbach's account and they could have put 2 and 2 together.

Of course, there is a third character in all of this: Laurean's wife. It seems that she pulled a Ted Kennedy: she waited almost a full day before reporting Lauterbach's death, despite the fact that she knew she was dead (she also met with a lawyer before contacting the po, a true Ted move). The police have said she will not face any charges and is cooperating fully (though, I suppose, tardily). I hope that the Marines see this conduct as unbecoming of someone in the service and remove her, as her late report allowed her husband to get a head start on authorities. In the choice between her criminal husband (even if his story were true, burying the body without permission to conceal a death is a Class I felony in North Carolina) and notifying authorities, she chose the former. Additionally, aiding, counseling, or abetting someone who is concealing a death is a Class A1 misdemeanor (though without specifics it is hard to make a judgment call as to whether Christina Laurean helped her husband conceal the death [though my instinct tells me she helped him flee and thus is implicated in this]). Even if no criminal charges are brought against Christina Laurean, I don't know if her actions befit those expected of a Marine.

From what I can gather about this, the FBI seems to be leading the investigation. Hopefully the Marines and the Onslow County Sheriff's Department put their egos aside and gave up all the information that they knew and stepped aside to allow a third party (in this case the G-Men) to take over the investigation. This seems like a tragic case and I hope that the Marines do not have any more people like these three in their ranks. It sounds like Lauterbach had some mental health issues that should have been addressed more aggressively and the relationship between her and Cesar Laurean is still very foggy. Laurean's story that Lauterbach killed herself seems untrue given his running away (and it's hard to kill yourself by blunt force trauma to the head). All in all, a sloppy investigation due to poor communication skills between the civilian and Marine law enforcement agencies. Maybe civilian law enforcement should be handling things on Camp Lejeune and other Marine outposts so future debacles like this do not occur. Peace.

Photos - Marine Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach (, Marine Cpl. Cesar Laurean (, Camp Lejeune HQ (fybix's flickr), Onslow County Sheriff's Department (

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