Scenes From a Pregnant Marine's Murder

Officials released photos in hopes of ending manhunt for Cpl.Cesar Laurean.

ByABC News
January 22, 2008, 11:31 AM

Jan. 22, 2008 — -- The most haunting image shows a man-made fire pit, square in shape and enclosed by 12 concrete cinder blocks, a spot where investigators made a gruesome discovery last month.

The photo is part of a group of images released Monday night by officials looking for Cpl.Cesar Laurean, a missing Marine who police think killed another Marine who had accused him of rape.

Police say they hope the images will help end a massive FBI manhunt for Laurean that has stretched from North Carolina, across the United States and perhaps into Mexico, where Laurean was born.

The photos were taken during a police investigation at Laurean's home after his wife confided to authorities that Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, a missing, pregnant 20-year-old Marine who had accused her husband of rape at the Camp Lejeune military base, was dead and buried in their North Carolina backyard.

Crime scene investigators began to slowly excavate the fire pit, and within 24 hours, Onslow County Sheriff's Office had released a grim statement confirming its initial suspicions.

"Charred human remains of an adult and a fetus were unearthed," the statement read. "There appeared to be the bodies of an adult female with a fetus located near the abdomen region of the female."

Authorities also released images from inside the Laurean house, including the garage where they believe the murder took place "based on the blood and the interpretation of the blood spatters" on the walls. The photos show a paint tray and 2-foot square patch of wall that has been repainted.

An arrest warrant was issued for Laurean, but the 21-year-old, who was raised in Nevada, was already on the run, thanks to the 24 hours his wife had waited before she contacted police.

Laurean is a naturalized U.S. citizen, but may have retained his Mexican citizenship as well. Laurean reportedly had 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.

Tips that come in of possible sightings outside of Onslow County are turned over to the FBI, Sutherland said. The FBI's Charlotte bureau, Sutherland said, is serving as a clearinghouse for the search. "We've received a number of tips that we believe are credible and worth following up on," Sutherland added.