RALEIGH, N.C. — A Marine personnel clerk wanted for the brutal slaying of a pregnant colleague who had accused him of rape was arrested Thursday night in Mexico after a three-month international manhunt, authorities said.
FBI agents and Mexican authorities arrested Marine Cpl. Cesar Laurean around 7 p.m. EDT. He is charged with murder in the death of Marine Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, whose burned remains were found in January in the back yard of his home near Camp Lejeune.
The FBI did not say where in Mexico Laurean was arrested but said he is awaiting extradition to the U.S.
"Laurean's swift arrest in Mexico was due to the diligence and dedication of the Mexican government and our law enforcement partners," Nathan Gray, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Charlotte office, said in a statement.
"This was truly an international effort, and we will do all we can to ensure Laurean is brought back to Onslow County (N.C.) as quickly as possible to answer the charges against him." Onslow County District Attorney Dewey Hudson said after Laurean's arrest was announced that "it could be a year or two" before authorities are able to bring the personnel clerk back to North Carolina if he decides to fight the extradition process. "The extradition process is one where you have a right to appeal," Hudson told The Associated Press. "I have no idea whether he would waive extradition."
Authorities believe Laurean killed the 20-year-old Lauterbach, an Ohio native who was eight months pregnant, in mid-December. Detectives have said he left behind a note for his wife in which he denied killing Lauterbach but admitted to burying her remains.
In the note, Laurean said Lauterbach committed suicide by cutting her own throat.
Authorities rejected the assertion, saying evidence indicates Lauterbach died of blunt force trauma to the head.
Tipped by the note, and not long after authorities went public in their search for the Lauterback, detectives discovered the charred remains of the missing Marine and her fetus in a shallow grave in Laurean's backyard.
Phone messages seeking comment left at Lauterbach's parents' home in Vandalia, Ohio, with Lauterbach's uncle Pete Steiner, and with family attorney Chris Conard were not immediately returned late Thursday. A woman who answered the phone at the home of Laurean's father-in-law, Bruce Shifflet, near Prospect, Ohio, hung up without commenting when told of the arrest.
Should Laurean be returned to North Carolina to stand trial, it would be unlikely he would face the death penalty. Hudson agreed not to seek an execution in order to win the cooperation of Mexico authorities, who refuse to send anyone back to the U.S. unless provided assurance they won't face a death sentence.
"We had intel that he had gone back to America to visit his family in Las Vegas and I was hoping they would arrest him in America," Hudson said. "But they didn't. This is a case that certainly is deserving to be tried as a capital case."