US Missing Marine
Alexandre Meneghini  /  AP
Marine Cpl. Cesar Laurean, wanted in the brutal slaying of a pregnant Marine at Camp LeJeune, was arrested Thursday night in Mexico after a three-month international manhunt, authorities said.
updated 4/12/2008 9:28:54 PM ET 2008-04-13T01:28:54

Detectives want to know whether a Marine charged with the brutal slaying of a pregnant colleague e-mailed North Carolina authorities to ask about turning himself in while he was on the run in Mexico.

However, Onslow County sheriff's officials cautioned Saturday that they are not sure whether a March 30 e-mail that claimed to be from Cpl. Cesar Laurean is genuine. Among other concerns, it was sent with the wrong spelling of Laurean's name, as Lauren.

"I tend to think it's less than a 50 percent probability," said sheriff's Capt. Rich Sutherland. "It had no impact on him being apprehended."

Laurean was arrested Thursday in a small town in Mexico. He is charged with the December killing of Marine Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, who had accused him of rape. The burned remains of her body and her fetus were found buried in his backyard.

He faces an extradition process that will take at least 60 days, and maybe longer than a year, depending on whether he fights efforts to return him to the United States.

The e-mail was sent to Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown. Sutherland said it appeared to have been sent from Mexico and was consistent with others that authorities know he sent while in hiding.

It read: "Sir, Can you assure immunity from a military court martial if I come back? , I know they will convict me with no evidence, I cant risk Leavenworth or a chain gang, what can you do for me?"

Laurean is charged with first-degree murder in civilian court. While the military could technically seek charges at the same time as civilian authorities, legal experts have said such a joint prosecution is not recommended by the military's manual for courts-martial and happens rarely.

Three days after receiving the e-mail, Brown replied, telling Laurean that turning himself in would be the "wisest thing you could do."

Brown also said he could not give an assurance of immunity from court-martial, but he added, "I understand the military is leaving everything up to the civilian authorities."

Police arrested Laurean, 21, of Las Vegas, as he was walking along the main street of San Juan de la Vina in the Mexican municipality of Tacambaro. He was born in Guadalajara but reportedly moved to the U.S. more than 10 years ago.

While in Mexico, Laurean communicated with his wife, Christina, using the MySpace social-networking service and repeatedly asked for help _ which she refused. Onslow County District Attorney Dewey Hudson has said that evidence recovered from the computer Christina Laurean used allowed detectives to identify the Internet cafes in Mexico where Laurean was accessing the Web.

Sutherland said Friday that Christina Laurean fully cooperated with investigators.

Laurean and Lauterbach were assigned to the same logistics unit at Camp Lejeune, a base on the North Carolina coast that is home to about 50,000 Marines.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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