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Military: Slain Marine said she was not afraid of suspect

  • Story Highlights
  • Suspect didn't violate protective order after rape accusation, military says
  • Suspect's truck found at North Carolina motel
  • Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach killed by blunt force trauma, autopsy shows
  • Marine Cpl. Cesar Armando Laurean is still at large
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JACKSONVILLE, North Carolina (CNN) -- A pregnant Marine who disappeared in December told victims' advocates at Camp Lejeune that she didn't feel unsafe being around another Marine now wanted in her death, Marine Corps officials said Tuesday.

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A pickup found at a hotel in North Carolina was identified as belonging to suspect Cesar Armando Laurean.

Marine Cpl. Cesar Armando Laurean never violated the military protective order directing him to stay away from Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, said Col. Gary Sokoloski, the judge advocate general officer for the II Marine Expeditionary Force.

Laurean continued to report for work on time in the weeks after Lauterbach's disappearance and denied having any kind of sexual contact with her, Sokoloski said.

Months earlier, Lauterbach had told superiors at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, that Laurean had raped her. When she went missing December 14, Lauterbach was eight months pregnant.

However, "At no time did she indicate that she was threatened by Cpl. Laurean," Sokoloski said. "When she was asked if she felt threatened by Cpl. Laurean, she said she did not feel threatened."

Lauterbach's body and that of her child were positively identified Tuesday as the charred corpses in the backyard of Laurean's home.

Laurean has evaded authorities since Friday, when his wife gave authorities a note from him saying that Lauterbach had killed herself and that he had buried her in the backyard, police said. Video Watch how authorities tracked relationship between Marines »

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She died from blunt trauma to the head, a prosecutor said Tuesday. Blood spatters were found in Laurean's home, police said.

Laurean fled Camp Lejeune on Friday and is charged with first-degree murder in Lauterbach's death, Onslow County officials say.

County law enforcement are the primary investigators in the case because the incident happened on county property -- not at Camp Lejeune.

On Tuesday afternoon, authorities confirmed Laurean's black Dodge pickup was parked at a North Carolina hotel. Video Watch motel employee talk about suspect's truck »

Police were alerted to the presence of the truck, in Morrisville, North Carolina, by a tip about 1 p.m., Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown said. Video Watch Nancy Grace confront Brown about the investigation »

The hotel is off Airport Boulevard near Interstate 40, across the highway from Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

Meanwhile, military officials held a press conference Tuesday attempting to provide a timeline for the investigation. See a timeline of the case »

They said they believed -- until Lauterbach's remains were found -- that she had left Camp Lejeune on her own accord.

On December 14, the day Lauterbach was last seen, her housemate, Sgt. Daniel Durham, found a handwritten note from her saying, "I could not take this Marine Corps life anymore so I'm going away. Sorry for the inconvenience. Maria."

The handwriting appeared to match Lauterbach's, Sokoloski said. Durham also noticed some of Lauterbach's personal items and her car were gone.

Durham called Lauterbach's sister regarding the note and reported her absence to the military, believing she has voluntarily gone "UA," for "unauthorized absence," said Lt. Col. Curtis Hill, a Marine Corps spokesman.

Also that day, a surveillance camera showed Lauterbach withdrawing $700 from her bank ATM, and a one-way bus ticket to El Paso, Texas, was bought in her name for the following day. That ticket was never used, Hill said.

Military authorities did not know of the withdrawal, the ticket purchase, the withdrawal of another $400 from her account on December 24 by a man who covered the surveillance camera or the discovery of Lauterbach's cell phone lying alongside a Jacksonville highway until January 9.

When Lauterbach failed to show up for work December 17, the military was concerned, mainly because of the advanced state of her pregnancy, Hill said.

The Marines were attempting to have her listed as a deserter -- meaning federal authorities could be used to apprehend her -- to ensure she was receiving proper care, he said.

Military officials did not have contact with the Onslow County Sheriff's Office until December 27, after learning Lauterbach's mother had filed a missing persons report with them six days earlier, Hill said.

As part of the missing persons investigation, Laurean was interviewed on base by Onslow County authorities and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. But he was interviewed as a possible witness, not a suspect, and was not detained, Hill said.

"At no point prior to Friday morning [January 11] ... did the regimental commander or the NCIS investigators feel that Lauterbach was anything other than UA or have information that Laurean was involved in any way," he said.

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He noted that the military was not privy to several items of information until days afterward, but maintained the military was not trying to blame anyone else, saying it enjoyed a good relationship with Onslow County.

"There may have been a few hiccups here," Hill said. "We're going to work through that." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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