- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The FBI yesterday ratcheted up the massive manhunt for Cesar A. Laurean, offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the U.S. Marine corporal suspected in the killing of another Marine who was pregnant.

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III said the bureau plans to post billboards nationwide showing Cpl. Laurean’s picture. Mr. Mueller, in a posting on the FBI’s Web page, www.fbi.gov, described Cpl. Laurean as “armed and dangerous.”

In announcing the reward, the FBI also issued a warning, noting that Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach’s charred remains and those of her unborn child were recovered in a shallow grave in the back yard of Cpl. Laurean’s home in Jacksonville, N.C. Cpl. Lauterbach had been reported missing by her mother on Dec. 19. Officials said she was killed Dec. 15.

Cpl. Lauterbach filed rape charges against Cpl. Laurean in April, and the Marine Corps scheduled a hearing in the case for December. The two continued to work together at Camp Lejeune in Onslow County, N.C.

A state arrest warrant was issued on Saturday in Onslow County after Cpl. Laurean was charged with murder. That same day, Cpl. Laurean was charged federally with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution by the U.S. District Court in Wilmington, N.C., and a federal warrant was issued for his arrest.

“The search for Laurean is Earthwide,” said Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown.

Witnesses told authorities yesterday that a man matching Cpl. Laurean’s description was spotted boarding a bus in a Shreveport, La., station on Saturday night. The bus was headed to Texas, but authorities were not able to confirm the report.

Authorities did confirm that Cpl. 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.

North Carolina investigators said Cpl. Laurean, 21, who is from the Las Vegas area, fled Jacksonville before dawn on Friday. He left behind a suicide note in which he admitted burying Lance Cpl. Lauterbach’s body but denied killing her, saying instead that she had cut her own throat in a suicide.

Investigators have rejected the claim, citing an autopsy report by Onslow County Medical Examiner Dr. Charles Garrett that found that Cpl. Lauterbach died from “traumatic head injury due to blunt force trauma.”

The note was discovered by Cpl. Laurean’s wife, Christina, whom authorities described as a “cooperating witness” in the investigation and not a suspect.

Authorities said Cpl. Laurean fled Jacksonville early Friday morning. Yesterday, they said they think he has gone into hiding and is no longer on the run.

The FBI yesterday also announced the establishment of a tip line to assist in the search for Cpl. Laurean. It is 1-800/CALLFBI (1-800/225-5324).

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