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Mother of slain Marine: 'I want women to be better protected'

  • Story Highlights
  • Maria Lauterbach wanted to spend career in Marines, she says in video
  • Lauterbach accused fellow Marine Cpl. Cesar Laurean of rape
  • Laurean faces murder charges in Lauterbach's death
  • Marines should have transferred Lauterbach to another base, her mother says
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From Susan Candiotti
CNN National Correspondent
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DAYTON, Ohio (CNN) -- Early on, Maria Lauterbach knew exactly what she wanted to do in life.


Dressed in her high school soccer uniform, Maria Lauterbach said she wanted to be a Marine, then a cop.

"After high school, I am going into the Marines," a smiling Lauterbach, dressed in her high school soccer uniform, says in a video made available exclusively to CNN. "I'll probably be doing that for 20 or 25 years, and then hopefully after that, becoming a cop."

Lauterbach became a Marine, but her dreams were cut short.

Her body was found buried in the backyard of a fellow Marine, Cpl. Cesar Laurean, near Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, in January. Video Watch Lauterbach talk about her future plans »

Mary Lauterbach, Maria's mother, wants to know why the Marines didn't do more to protect her daughter from Laurean, whom Maria Lauterbach had accused of rape in May 2007.

"My concern is I want women to be better protected," Lauterbach, of Dayton, Ohio, told CNN. Video Watch how mother wants answers from Marines »

Laurean now faces murder charges. He fled the Camp Lejeune area on January 11. The FBI says he went to his native Mexico, and a cousin of Laurean's reported seeing him in Zapopan, Mexico, in mid-January.

Mary Lauterbach has sent a list of more than 30 questions to the commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, Gen. James Conway, through her congressman.

She says she's unconvinced her daughter's rape allegation against Laurean was treated seriously.

Maria Lauterbach was 20 years old and eight months pregnant when she was reported missing after she failed to report for duty at Camp Lejeune in mid-December.

Her body was found nearly a month later beneath a fire pit in Laurean's backyard. It is unclear whether he was the father of her unborn child.

After Maria Lauterbach accused Laurean of rape, she was moved to another office, and military protective orders were issued to keep the accused from the accuser. But Mary Lauterbach and her congressman, Rep. Mike Turner, say the Marines didn't do enough to protect her.

"My daughter wanted to be transferred to another base," her mother said. She said her daughter told her in phone conversations that she would occasionally see Laurean at meetings and that it traumatized her.

The questions Turner, an Ohio Republican, sent to Conway include what steps were taken to protect Lauterbach after she accused Laurean of rape; why no search was launched immediately after she failed to report for duty; whether she requested a transfer to another base before her death; and whether Laurean was asked for a DNA sample after her pregnancy was confirmed.

A Marine Corps spokesman told CNN the service would respond to all of the questions submitted through Turner and would not comment further until those answers were complete.

Merle Wilberding, Lauterbach's family attorney, said the military protective order "really wasn't very effective."

Wilberding also questions the length of the investigation.

The next step would have been an Article 32 hearing, the military's equivalent of a open grand jury proceeding. Lauterbach disappeared in mid-December when she failed to show up for work.

"May 11 to December 14 is a long time for resentment to fester, if that's what it was," Wilberding says. "The longer these cases go on, I think the more difficult it is for the victim," he adds.

After Maria Lauterbach first leveled her charges, she changed her story but later continued to claim she was raped by Laurean.

"The problem is when someone has perceived credibility issues, you still must protect the person who is making those claims," her mother said.

The Marine Corps has said it reviewed its handling of Lauterbach's rape allegations. Turner says a general told him everything was done appropriately.

"I disagree that the review is complete," Turner told CNN. "This is a matter where clearly there is a tragic death, there is a national interest in other women that are serving, and this is a matter that deserves higher scrutiny."

Laurean denied the rape allegation or any other sexual contact with Lauterbach. In a statement issued after her death, the Marine Corps said Laurean's denial "was believed to significant evidence."

During a press briefing after Lauterbach's body was found, the Marines described her as a "solid Marine" and the fugitive Laurean as a "stellar Marine." Turner called the latter statement "really unexplainable."


"I don't know how you can be a stellar Marine and have another Marine buried in your backyard," he said. "And when that statement was made, those Marines already knew of the tragedy that had befallen Maria."

Mary Lauterbach said her daughter would be proud of her persistence: "I do this totally for her and for the protection of everyone else's daughter." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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