Video: Search widens for Marine

By Clint Van Zandt
msnbc.com
updated 1/18/2008 4:08:57 PM ET 2008-01-18T21:08:57
COMMENTARY

Cesar Armando Laurean is a fugitive currently being sought by the FBI. He is the man suspected in the death of fellow Marine 20-year-old Maria Lauterbach, bludgeoned last month in Laurean’s North Carolina home that he shared with his wife, Christina, and their 18-month-old daughter.  Lauterbach was eight and a half months pregnant with Cpl. Laurean’s alleged baby after a possible rape by Laurean in their Marine Corps office.  Due to conflicting stories told by Lauterbach, and her mother’s characterization of her as a bipolar pathological liar, the investigation moved slowly, and when she disappeared around Dec. 14, many believed she had simply run away.

Lauterbach is believed to have died as the result of one or more violent blows to her head while she was in the Laurean residence, with her body burned and buried, along with her unborn child, in a shallow grave in the backyard.

Some reports suggest that a possible murder weapon, perhaps a crow bar, had been given to investigators by “a witness.”  The weapon allegedly came from the Laurean home and is being examined by the state crime lab. Blood on the walls and floors of the residence had been painted over, possibly by Mrs. Laurean, herself a U.S. Marine reservist who has since been reactivated and relocated onto the local Marine base. Christina Laurean has provided authorities with a note from her husband alleging that Lauterbach committed suicide by cutting her own throat, and that he buried her body in their yard.

This is at least half-right, although the autopsy of Lauterbach and her child has confirmed that she died of blunt force trauma to her head, not a self-inflicted cut. Cpl. Laurean fled in the middle of the night, and an investigation reveals he traveled to Texas and then crossed the Mexican border, probably on public transportation. Two or more letters believed to have been mailed by him to his wife from Houston have been recovered, and authorities presumably have multiple wiretaps or pen registers on telephones related to the fugitive.  As a former Mexican national, Cpl. Laurean has friends and relatives in Mexico, and apparently was able to use Lauterbach’s ATM card to take about $1,100 from her account before he fled the U.S.

As a young FBI agent, I arrested 100 fugitives my first year, and thousands more are arrested by law enforcement agencies across the country on a daily basis. The challenge, of course, is that on any day there are more than 10,000,000 active warrants on file for wanted fugitives in the U.S., plus another 600,000 foreigners who have been ordered to leave America that remain unaccounted for. With approximately 240 police officers per 100,000 citizens in America, law enforcement has seen the number of outstanding fugitive warrants increase each year.  Cpl. Laurean allegedly told fellow Marines that if implicated in Lauterbach’s murder, he would flee to Mexico, which has been confirmed by investigators and witnesses.

Some countries are reluctant to help in fugitive cases
While some countries are reluctant to turn their citizens over to another government, Cpl. Laurean became a U.S. citizen in 2003.  Eighty fugitives were extradited from Mexico to the U.S. in 2007, in most cases taken to the border and turned over to U.S. authorities. One of the largest FBI offices outside of the U.S. is in Mexico, and FBI agents there, referred to as legal attachés, are coordinating the fugitive hunt for Cpl. Laurean with their “south of the border” counterparts.

Although the fugitive may be receiving assistance from unknown persons in Mexico, the combination of the Mexican police investigation, one that will put a lot of heat on Laurean’s known relatives and friends, and the $25,000 reward for his apprehension will likely result in his capture.

The FBI has taken the unprecedented step of working with Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings, a company that has about 150 giant electronic billboards across America, by placing Laurean’s photo and background information on at least 20 of these billboards.  Friday, the FBI will distribute across the U.S. and Mexico a new wanted poster, in Spanish, showing a picture of Laurean and informing the public of a significant reward for his arrest.

Laurean does not appear to have the resources necessary to successfully remain a man on the run.  He will quickly run out of money, and his days as a fugitive are numbered.  Although not an “earthwide” search as characterized by the local sheriff in South Carolina, the fugitive hunt is heating up and Cpl. Laurean will soon find that he “nowhere to run to and no place to hide.”

Clint Van Zandt is a former FBI agent, behavioral profiler and hostage negotiator as well as an MSNBC analyst. His web site, www.LiveSecure.org provides readers with security-related information.

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