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Archive for Saturday, April 12, 2008

Villagers shocked by Marine suspect’s arrest

April 12, 2008

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— People wondered about the bearded foreigner who moved into a rustic cabin weeks ago in the pine-clad mountains surrounding this picturesque village.

Some thought maybe he was a drug trafficker - something not unheard of in these parts. It was not until Friday when they saw Cpl. Cesar Laurean's photograph in the local newspaper that they learned he was a U.S. Marine suspected of killing a pregnant colleague.

Police arrested Laurean, 21, on Thursday as he was walking along the main street in San Juan de la Vina in the municipality of Tacambaro, ending a three-month manhunt. He is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Marine Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, 20, who had accused him of rape.

Lauterbach's burned remains were found in January in the backyard of his home near Camp Lejeune, a coastal North Carolina base that is home to roughly 50,000 Marines.

FBI Public Affairs Specialist Amy Thoreson said FBI agents were present at Laurean's arrest in Mexico, but it was unclear what role they played.

Bearded and thin, Laurean told police he survived for months largely by eating avocados from the orchard in the mountains where he lived in Michoacan state.

After his arrest Thursday, a slightly disoriented Laurean spoke briefly with The Associated Press while being held by Mexican police.

"You know my name. You know who I am," Laurean said. Asked if he wanted to say anything, Laurean answered, "Proof," but would not explain.

Asked what he would do next, he replied, "Do I have a choice? ... I don't know."

Residents here said Laurean lived in a three-room wood cabin with a corrugated metal roof where he slept on a bed of crushed cardboard boxes. On Friday, there was a notebook on the cabin's floor showing that he kept a diary of his daily exercise routine, including push-ups, sit-ups and crunches. There were two shelves filled with canned tuna, instant soup and candy.

He walked to town daily, greeting those he passed, and spent hours at the local Internet cafe.

"He always seemed really happy to see us. He was serious, respectful," said Tomasa Boteyo, 78, who lived near his cabin.

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