North Carolina sheriff reports suspect in slain Marine case spotted in another state - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

North Carolina sheriff reports suspect in slain Marine case spotted in another state

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (AP) - The key suspect in the brutal slaying of a 20-year-old pregnant Marine has been sighted outside of North Carolina, the sheriff said Sunday.

The sighting by a member of the general public happened around midnight, said Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown, who would not say where. He expressed hope that Marine Cpl. Cesar Armando Laurean would soon be in custody.

"I do feel comfortable that Mr. Laurean will be located," Brown said, adding that the evidence in the case "leads us to believe that he would be a dangerous and violent person if put in a corner."

On Saturday, authorities said they recovered what they believe to be the burnt remains of Marine Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach and her unborn child from a fire pit in Laurean's backyard, where they suspect he burned and buried her body. Those remains have been sent to the state medical examiner's office in Chapel Hill for a formal identification.

Lauterbach disappeared sometime after Dec. 14, not long after she met with military prosecutors to talk about her April allegation that Laurean raped her. Naval investigators said Saturday the rape case was progressing and Laurean was under a protective order to stay away from Lauterbach.

Brown would not say specifically where Laurean was spotted, only describing it as a "transit" sighting. He declined to say whether Laurean was still in the black four-door pickup truck in which they believe he skipped town.

Brown said the FBI, federal Marshals, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation are hunting for Laurean. Sheriff's investigators at the scene are spending much of their time on developing evidence in the investigation, he said.

"While finding him is a main concern, the major concern is that we continue the investigation to clearly find the truth in what happened," he said.

Authorities on Saturday issued an arrest warrant on murder charges for Laurean, 21, of the Las Vegas area. They believe he fled Jacksonville before dawn on Friday after leaving behind a note in which he admitted to burying her body, but said Lauterbach cut her own throat in a suicide.

Citing what he described as a violent confrontation inside Laurean's home - which he said left blood spatters on the ceiling and a massive amount of blood on the wall - Brown has challenged Laurean's assertion Lauterbach killed herself and asked him to come forward to defend his claims of innocence.

Authorities received the note from Laurean's wife, whom Brown has said is cooperating with authorities. Her family has described her as "heartbroken."

Lauterbach's mother reported her daughter missing Dec. 19. She had been placed on "unauthorized absence" status by the Marine Corps and was listed that day as a "missing person at risk" in a national law enforcement database.

Naval investigators said authorities didn't consider Laurean a threat to Lauterbach, or later a flight risk, because they had indications the pair were on friendly terms. Laurean later refused to meet with investigators and left town without telling his lawyers where he was going.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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