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Autopsy: Marine's neck wound could be post-mortem

  • Story Highlights
  • A missing Marine's body was found in another Marine's backyard this year
  • Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach was eight months pregnant when she was last seen
  • Officials say Cpl. Cesar Laurean, the main suspect, has fled to his native Mexico
  • Note from Laurean claimed Lauterbach slit her own throat during an argument
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(CNN) -- A 20-year-old pregnant Marine had a superficial wound to her neck that may have occurred after death, according to autopsy results released Friday.

If so, the finding casts doubt on the main suspect's story.

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Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach's neck wound may have occurred after her death, according to autopsy results

Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach's body and that of her fetus were found beneath a fire pit this year near the North Carolina home of Cpl. Cesar Laurean, the main suspect in the case.

The bodies were found after Laurean's wife produced a note he had written claiming that Lauterbach slit her own throat during an argument, officials have said.

A gaping 4-inch wound was found on the left side of Lauterbach's neck, according to autopsy results released by the office of the chief medical examiner in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The wound is "incised," meaning it is a clean cut such as that made by a sharp instrument. However, the wound itself would not have been fatal, as there was only minimal damage to the underlying muscle, the results said.

"The autopsy confirms that there was a superficial incision to the neck that appears to have been made post-mortem," said a statement from Merle Wilberding and Chris Conard, attorneys representing Lauterbach's mother, Mary Lauterbach. "If so, that incision may have been made to have the body conform to Cesar Laurean's story that she had 'killed herself by slitting her throat.' "

"It looks like that incision was done to try to conform with the story he tried to present through his note and through his wife," Wilberding said. "The autopsy would support the criminal investigation conclusion that Laurean's story is not supported by the evidence."

The neck wound did not appear to have resulted from the attempt to burn the body, the autopsy results said, but it "may have occurred after death." See a timeline of events in the case »

Lauterbach was eight months pregnant when she was last seen near Camp LeJeune, North Carolina, in December. Her body was found a month later.

Officials have said that Lauterbach died from blunt-force trauma to the head. The results released Friday were the full results of the autopsy conducted in January.

Authorities believe that Laurean, who faces murder and other charges in the case, has fled North Carolina for his native Mexico to avoid prosecution. Lauterbach had accused him of raping her, but it is unclear whether he was the father of her child.

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Authorities believe that Laurean killed Lauterbach on December 14 and used her ATM card 10 days later. He has been indicted on charges of murder, ATM card theft, attempted card theft, fraud and robbery with a dangerous weapon.

Police said this week that there were no updates in the search for Laurean. A Mexican court has issued a provisional arrest warrant for him. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Tristan Smith and Susan Candiotti contributed to this report

All About North CarolinaMexicoMurder and HomicideMaria Lauterbach

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