Image: Cpl. Cesar A. Laurean
AP file
U.S. Marine Cpl. Cesar Armando Laurean has been charged with murdering Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, a pregnant 20-year-old colleague.
updated 10/14/2008 11:29:00 AM ET 2008-10-14T15:29:00

A Marine who fled to Mexico shortly before he was charged with killing a pregnant fellow soldier is fighting extradition in a move that prosecutors said could delay or endanger the chances of him going to trial in the United States.

A North Carolina prosecutor said Monday that Cpl. Cesar Laurean, 21, is appealing to the Mexican courts, arguing that North Carolina's life-without-parole sentence for first-degree murder is barred under the countries' extradition treaty.

Laurean is charged in the slaying of 20-year-old Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, who had worked with him at North Carolina's Camp Lejeune military installation and had accused him of rape. Lauterbach was eight months pregnant when she disappeared in December.

Laurean fled to Mexico shortly before Lauterbach's burned remains were found in January in Laurean's backyard, and he was arrested in Mexico in April.

Death penalty won't be sought
In North Carolina, a person convicted of first-degree murder can only be sentenced to death or life without parole.

Onslow County District Attorney Dewey Hudson has already agreed not to seek the death penalty, and a Mexican judge agreed last month to extradite Laurean back to the United States.

Laurean has appealed that ruling, in part arguing that life without parole is considered cruel and unusual punishment.

Hudson said the argument has been used unsuccessfully in the past, but if the Mexican court sides with Laurean, he could be released from jail.

"Common sense tells me if they're not going to deport him back to (the U.S.), my biggest concern is he could be released to live in Mexico," Hudson said.

It's unclear when the Mexican courts will consider Laurean's appeal. Laurean's attorney, Dick McNeil of Jacksonville, didn't immediately return a phone message, but has said Laurean filed the appeal this month.

Fight could last years
The extradition fight could delay his trial for several years, Hudson said.

Hudson said he has been in touch with the U.S. Department of Justice, which is in charge of the extradition, and they told him as much about the appeal as they know.

"It's basically a waiting game for me," he said. "We've done everything we can ... everything we've been asked to do. I don't wanna do anything that's gonna cause any problems here.

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