The U.S. Marine sought in connection with the murder of a pregnant fellow Marine materialized out of nowhere in a liquor store just outside of Guadalajara, Mexico last week, and disappeared just as quickly, a relative told ABC News on Wednesday.
Corporal Cesar Laurean spent about 10 or 15 minutes inside the store, as two people he identified to his cousin as "friends" stood outside the store entrance facing the street.
"He seemed calm,'' Juan Antonio Ramos Ramirez, 31, told ABC News. "He didn't seem like he had [a] problem,'' Ramirez said. "We just exchanged greetings because it was a very quick visit.''
Ramirez said Laurean hadn't visited the small town of Zapopan, just outside of Guadalajara, in five or six years, despite having a number of relatives in the region.
"He's got a big problem, no?'' Ramirez asked an ABC News producer, seeming to wonder whether he and other relatives of Laurean would be dragged into the manhunt. "Until it clears up, well...it affects the whole family, no?"
Ramirez said that he chatted amiably with his Laurean for several minutes and then turned to help a customer in the store.
"And when we were done, he was gone,'' Ramirez said.
Meanwhile, ABC News has learned that Laurean likely took a bus to Mexico.
Sources familiar with the probe say that Laurean, 21, who is wanted in connection with the murder of Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, got on a bus in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and then rode to Houston. In Houston, he allegedly boarded another bus and then traveled to San Luis Potosi, a state in central Mexico.
The bus driver on that trip -- in a recent interview with investigators -- has positively identified Laurean, telling investigators he had a lengthy conversation with the man, who was allegedly using the alias "Armando Ramirez."
The bus driver at the time did not know who Laurean was. The FBI has listed that alias on new pictures released today.
The FBI did not say how it came by the alias. Laurean allegedly arrived in Mexico a week ago Sunday, calmly traveling by bus as the police were in the early stages of launching a massive manhunt to find him.
Late tonight the Associated Press reported that a man claiming to be Laurean's cousin told the AP that Laurean visited relatives in Mexico last week.
Burned Remains at Laurean's Home
The charred remains of Lauterbach and her unborn child were found buried in a fire pit in Laurean's backyard Saturday, Jan. 12. Police were investigating the scene after Laurean's wife, Christine, confided to authorities that Lauterbach, a missing, pregnant 20-year-old who had accused her husband of rape at the Camp Lejeune military base, was dead and buried in their North Carolina backyard. She was eight months pregnant when she died.
Police believe Lauterbach was murdered in the home's garage, "based on the blood and the interpretation of the blood spatters" on the walls.
A federal judge in Charlotte, N.C., issued an arrest warrant for Laurean, triggering a nationwide manhunt. But Laurean, who was born in Mexico and raised in Nevada, was already on the run.
Laurean, a naturalized U.S. citizen who may have retained his Mexican citizenship, reportedly told fellow Marines in his unit that he would run to Mexico if he were found guilty by the military of raping Lauterbach.
"That's definitely a viable place he could be," Capt. Rick Sutherland, the spokesman for the Onslow County Sheriff's Office, told ABC News. But Sutherland said that a high volume of tips have come in placing Laurean in the American Southwest and in states immediately surrounding North Carolina.
Manhunt, Surveillance Tapes
Lauterbach was killed Dec. 15 by some type of blunt trauma to the head, a state medical examiner determined. Last week, Onslow County Sheriff's Office authorities announced that a witness had turned in a weapon that may have been used in Lauterbach's death but would not confirm reports the suspected murder weapon was a crowbar.
This weekend, authorities teamed up with the TV show "America's Most Wanted" and showed surveillance footage of Laurean and an unidentified man entering and exiting a Lowe's home improvement store once on Dec. 16 and again on Dec. 24. Lauterbach had been last seen Dec. 14 and was reported missing by her family in her home state of Ohio on Dec. 19. In his shopping trips, Laurean purchased a wheelbarrow, paint and concrete blocks like the ones used to ring the fire pit. Another image shows Laurean using Lauterbach's card at an ATM machine Dec. 24.
Sutherland told ABC News that authorities have interviewed the friend seen in the Lowe's videotape three times and that he is considered a "cooperating witness." Christine Laurean, the fugitive's wife and a former Marine, has also been called a cooperating witness, even though she waited almost a day before notifying authorities.
Christine Laurean, the mother of the couple's 18-month-old, handed over notes left by her husband in which he claimed that Lauterbach had slit her own throat before he burned and buried her body.
Before he took off, Laurean told his wife that Lauterbach had demanded money from him so she could leave the area and that he bought her a bus ticket to El Paso, Texas, according to court documents released last week. Lauterbach's abandoned car was recovered at the bus stop, but the ticket to El Paso was never used.
ABC News' David Schoetz contributed to this report.