North Carolina law enforcement officials took pains Friday to publicly applaud the work of Mexican law enforcement officials in the capture of fugitive Marine Cesar Armando Laurean and to reassure that nation that he would be treated fairly if and when he is extradited to the United States.
"While Laurean's crime was horrible -- to say the least -- Cesar Laurean is not an animal,'' Onslow County, N.C., Sheriff Ed Brown said at a Friday afternoon press conference. "He's a human, and he's not a trophy. Laurean, when he comes back to the sheriff's office, will be treated just as any other inmate; he is not a high-profile inmate. He will be just like any other inmate housed in this Onslow County jail."
Laurean has been on the lam since January, after investigators said they found the charred remains of Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach and her unborn baby buried in Laurean's backyard. Lauterbach, who was eight months pregnant, disappeared in December 2007. The discovery of her remains prompted authorities to file murder charges against Laurean.
Laurean had been Lauterbach's senior officer at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina until she accused him of raping her. The Marines have said Laurean was never taken into custody because he had denied the charge and there was no evidence to support the accusation.
Death Penalty Still Off the Table
Onslow County District Attorney Dewey Hudson reiterated his promise to Mexican officials that he would not seek the death penalty if a jury convicted Laurean of murder.
Referring to a decades-old treaty with Mexico that precludes officials there from turning over fugitives who would face capital punishment to U.S. authorities, Hudson said at the press conference that his office had reluctantly but firmly agreed to those conditions.
Hudson said his office had "reviewed'' the treaty "very carefully'' and had come to the "inescapable conclusion'' that the agreement was airtight. "Depending on whether or not Cesar Laurean waives extradition, this process could take a few days or up to a couple years to occur."
Dewey said he'll work closely with the U.S. Justice Dept. to "facilitate Laurean's expeditions return to Jacksonville for trial." If convicted, Laurean would face a sentence of life in prison.
Laurean's arrest Thursday brought to close a massive three-month international manhunt.
North Carolina law enforcement officials indicated that U.S. authorities had been hot on Laurean's heels for some time.
"In the last couple of weeks, we developed specific information, and through a coordinated effort with the FBI, NCIS [Naval Criminal Investigative Service] and this office, began to narrow down and focus the area where we suspected that Cesar Laurean was," Capt. Rick Sutherland of the Onslow County Sheriff's Office said.
Sutherland noted that the investigators were able to "narrow our focus" in the search for Laurean after they analyzed and substantiated information they received over the past couple of weeks that Laurean "was reaching out and attempting to communicate with family members and persons located in this county."
Amid questions about any cooperation Laurean's wife might have provided, Sutherland said that "a number of questions have been raised about Christina Laurean ... and our office has continued to repeat the fact that she was a cooperating witness with this investigation. That status has not changed."