- The Washington Times - Monday, April 20, 2009

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (AP) - A Marine who fled to Mexico shortly before he was charged with killing a pregnant colleague in North Carolina may ask to have his trial moved because there’s been so much publicity about the case, his attorney said Monday.

Cpl. Cesar Laurean, 22, was due in Onslow County court Monday, his first U.S. appearance since he was charged last year with first-degree murder in the death of Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, 20, of Vandalia, Ohio.

Her charred remains were found buried in a fire pit behind the Jacksonville house Laurean shared with his wife and young daughter in January 2008.

Laurean (LOR’-ee-an) was extradited to the U.S. on Friday and returned to North Carolina that night by the FBI.

Investigators believe he fled hours before Lauterbach’s charred remains were found. Mexican authorities captured him just over a year ago in the small town of Tacambaro, Mexico.

Laurean and Lauterbach worked together at Camp Lejeune. Lauterbach had accused Laurean of rape, but tests showed he wasn’t the father of her unborn child.

He denied having any sexual contact with Lauterbach, but Marine commanders submitted a request in October 2007 for prosecutors to review the rape allegations. Lauterbach was reported missing that December.

Laurean’s attorney, Dick McNeil, said he is trying to decide whether to formally seek a change of venue for Laurean’s eventual trial because “the coverage has been extensive, especially locally.” He said he expects to get more than 6,000 pages of case documents this week.

McNeil said he met with his client for two hours on Saturday and said he won’t accept a plea deal in the case. He said Laurean was cooperative and helpful.

Although prosecutors have said they want to try the case this fall, McNeil said he has three pending murder cases and won’t be ready for a trial in Laurean’s case until early next year.

Laurean said he was treated well by Mexican authorities while he was in custody, McNeil said. He has dual citizenship.

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