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Fugitive Marine seen in Mexico, cousin says

  • Story Highlights
  • One letter wife received said Marine would be on the road
  • Cousin: "He told me he was here with some buddies for a few days"
  • Cousin says he didn't know Marine Cpl. Cesar Laurean was wanted in N.C. killing
  • Prosecutor takes death penalty off the table if Laurean found in Mexico
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ZAPOPAN, Mexico (CNN) -- A cousin of suspected killer Marine Cpl. Cesar Laurean told CNN Tuesday that he saw the wanted man near Guadalajara a week ago.

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The FBI has released this picture of fugitive Marine Cpl. Cesar Laurean and a tattoo on his left arm.

Juan Antonio Ramos Ramirez said he did not know at the time the Marine visited him at his liquor store in Zapopan that Laurean was being sought by authorities for murder.

"He stopped by ... just a few days ago, last week," he said.

Asked what his cousin had told him, Ramos said, "Just 'Hi, I'm just passing by.' He told me he was here with some buddies for a few days and, you know, it's not the first time he's come by to visit, say hi to the family."

Also Tuesday, the FBI released photographs it said were taken within the past eight months showing the fugitive. Laurean has a tattoo of a phoenix rising from ashes on his left upper arm and a tattoo "possibly of a human skull layered over another image on his right upper arm," the agency said.

The 5-foot-9, 160-pound man also has a small mole on the left side of his face between his lower lip and his chin.Video Watch what cousin has to say about Cpl. Cesar Laurean »

The reported sighting jibes with Monday's report by Onslow County, North Carolina, District Attorney Dewey Hudson, who said he had seen "strongly compelling evidence" compiled by federal authorities indicating that Laurean had been in Mexico for more than a week.

A law enforcement source told CNN Tuesday that, in addition to the letter he left for his wife at their house, Laurean has mailed her three others.

One letter is postmarked after Laurean left their North Carolina home on January 11 and drove to a motel in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, telling her he would be on the road, the source said. He wrote where he was leaving the truck and described the motel he was staying in, located near a mall the two had visited, the source said.

The letter was postmarked from Raleigh-Durham, the source said.

In each letter, Laurean wrote that he loves her and cares deeply about his 18-month-old daughter. In one letter, he addressed his daughter directly, in a sort of farewell, the source said.

Also on January 11, Laurean boarded a bus departing Raleigh for Houston, which would make the tip of a possible sighting around that time in Shreveport, Louisiana, erroneous, the source said.

Laurean arrived in Houston before 5 p.m. January 12, a Saturday, the source said, adding that authorities have evidence that he made it to a bus station there.

In Houston, Laurean mailed two more letters to his wife and bought a bus ticket costing about $170 from the Tornado Bus Company to San Luis Potosi, Mexico.

The bus driver told authorities that Laurean identified himself as Armando Ramirez, the source said. Laurean probably arrived in Guadalajara Sunday, the source said.

The source said Laurean received wire money transfers from Western Union before he left Houston, but would not say from whom.

The money mainly went to pay Laurean's attorneys, the source added.

Laurean has been charged with murder in the death of Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, whose charred remains were found January 11 in a fire pit in Laurean's back yard. Investigators found the body after Laurean's wife came forward with a note her husband had written saying he had buried Lauterbach, who was eight months pregnant, after she slit her own throat during an argument.

Hudson said Laurean apparently entered his native Mexico days after leaving that note. Hudson said he has provided a "provisional arrest request" to Mexico through the U.S. State Department to use in case Laurean is arrested in Mexico, and said he had "no other option" but to take the death penalty off the table if Laurean is found there.

"I had to agree not to seek the death penalty," Hudson told CNN. "My hands were tied if I wanted to bring him here to face murder charges."

Mexico has had a long-standing record of refusing to extradite suspected murderers to the United States if they face a possible death penalty after conviction. Mexico is opposed to capital punishment.

The FBI plans to circulate in Mexico either matchbooks or business cards with Laurean's photo. The Marine's wanted poster is on the FBI's Most Wanted List with a $25,000 reward.

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Police believe Lauterbach was killed December 14, the same day she bought a bus ticket for travel on the following day. But in the note provided to police by Laurean's wife, the corporal said Lauterbach had killed herself December 15.

Police said an autopsy revealed the pregnant Marine was killed by a blow to the head. Police said they are analyzing a possible murder weapon provided by an undisclosed witness. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About MexicoFederal Bureau of InvestigationU.S. Marine Corps

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