Jan. 15, 2008— -- North Carolina authorities this afternoon recovered a pickup truck belonging to Cpl. Cesar Laurean, the man wanted in the murder of fellow Marine Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach and her unborn son.
Laurean's black 2004 extended cab pickup was found in the parking lot of an inn in Morrisville, N.C., about 135 miles from Jacksonville, N.C., where he and Lauterbach were previously stationed at the Camp Lejeune military base, the Onslow County Sheriff's Office confirmed.
Authorities had been investigating potential sightings of Laurean, a 21-year-old who had previously been accused of raping Lauterbach and is now wanted in her death, in Raleigh, roughly 20 miles from the parking lot where the vehicle was found Tuesday afternoon.
The recovery of Laurean's car comes the day after a $25,000 reward was announced for information leading to his apprehension, and a wanted poster began appearing on digital billboards operated by the FBI.
It also followed an announcement this morning that the North Carolina Medical Examiner's office had concluded that the charred remains found in the backyard of Laurean's home in Jacksonville over the weekend belonged to Lauterbach. The autopsy also found that the 20-year-old Marine, who was more than eight months pregnant, died from blunt trauma to the head.
Laurean fled last Friday morning just hours before Onslow County authorities announced they believed Lauterbach was dead and had been buried.
Laurean had repeatedly canceled meetings with sheriff's investigators as they investigated Lauterbach's missing person's case.
Marine Corps officials scheduled an afternoon press conference to address the rape allegations Lauterbach had made against Laurean and how that information was handled after the woman was reported missing by her family Dec. 19 and her military status was changed to "unauthorized absence."