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Laurean Murder Trial Begins


After much confusion as to who can do what, Judge finally gave permission for the cameras to stream the case.

He began by reading some basic instructions to the jury.

Maria’s mother and step-father are there as well as Laurean’s parents and two sisters.

The court is surprisingly empty.

Dewey Hudson begins opening statements.  He describes multiple complex fractures to Marie’s head.  He says the throat injury was post mortem.  Hudson says the murder weapon was a crowbar!

We’ve heard about the crowbar before, but this is the first confirmation that is was the murder weapon!

He describes Laurean going on the run and the subject of an international manhunt.

He tells the jury about the fire pit where her body was found.  He also says the garage at Laurean’s home contained a great deal of blood evidence.

The transmission is terrible! Picture jumps and freezes and they can’t get the sound for everybody. Big old courtroom…

Wowzers, Hudson’s opening is all of maybe 10 minutes!!!!!!

Dick McNeil is up and thanks the jury for their patience over the past few days.

The feed keeps breaking up….grrrrr.

McNeil tells the jury this will be an emotional trial.  He goes into Maria’s joining the Marine Corp and her mom had to sign permission due to her age.  He starts trashing the victim about her rape claim, and says Laurean was never charged.  He was a good Marine, she not so much!

Laurean had to counsel Maria about her shortcomings as a Marine.  Maria was a liar, has difficulty with reality, exaggerates things.

Hudson is objecting to McNeil’s opening!

State must prove that Laurean is the perpetrator, and must prove circumstances.

McNeil brings up that her mother early on said Maria was a liar, bi-polar.  Maria obviously had mental issues and was emotionally unstable.

Judge says McNeil needs to tread carefully as to what he is introducing.

McNeil says Maria’s mother wanted Maria to put the baby up for adoption.

Regardless of the picture McNeil is painting, there is no doubt that he killed her and then burned her in the fire pit!

Daniel Durham is called to the stand as the first witness.  It was his house that Maria was living in.  He let her move in so that when he was sent over seas she could watch his house and dog.  He is presently stationed in Eastern Europe.  Maria left him a note saying she was sorry, no longer wanted to be a Marine, and was leaving.

Maria pretty much kept to herself while living there – she had her own bedroom and bathroom.

The last time her saw Maria was December 12.  It was on the 14th he found the note.

Ernie Lee shows him the note and Durham identifies it and reads it to the jury.  He says he tried calling Maria’s cell and it went to voicemail.  He tried calling Maria’s family and spoke with her sister.

He sent several text messages to Maria, but got no response.

On that Monday, he gave the note to Maria’s boss.

Now McNeil is up and wants to know how much Maria owed him in rent.  Durham says $600, a month and a half, but she was getting the money the next day.

Did you have a computer in the house?  Yes.

Did Ms. Lauterbach use it?  She may have.

Was your computer seized?  Yes.

Did you ever have a map of Texas on the computer?  No sir?

Did she ever talk to you about the baby?  Just that she was confused as to whether she was going to keep the baby.

Did she ever tell you who the father was?

Objection! 2nd time the jury is sent out.

A lot of what the defense wants to bring out is hearsay to prove she was emotionally unstable and her state of mind.

Defense wants to use Maria’s witness statement concerning her saying that she was a victim of rape by a NCO. Pressure concerning what to do with baby contributed to mental instability.

Basically the defense is going for Maria’s behavior and mental state led to this “tragic event”!

Objection over ruled.

Durham agrees Maria told him she was pregnant because of a sexual assault.

Up next, Special Agent Chip Cobel, North Carolina SBI.  He was called to the crime scene.

He identifies a bunch of Goggle maps of the area, but I’ve no idea what the heck this is leading to except that this is the neighborhood where Laurean lived!

Recess called!

At this pace, this is going to be a hell of a long trial!  Ernie Lee isn’t exactly keeping us awake with his line of questioning!

Well, they seemed to figure out the sound issues!

Cobel is now describing the exterior and interior of the house.  He saw Laurean’s passport in the house.  Family photographs, a jacket that had the name Laurean on it.

He identifies all the photos taken of the house and property.

He recalls storage containers stacked against the garage wall and he spotted dried blood on the top of one of the containers.  He noticed blood on edge of container, floor, south wall, (exterior wall), exposed portion of cinder block wall and sheet rock.

Maria’s mom, Mary is quietly weeping.

Several additional Agents assisted in collecting and bagging evidence.  In the backyard was a pool and the fire pit.  He identifies the pictures of the backyard.

2/3’s away from the house was an area that appeared to be disturbed with burned material surrounded by 12 cinder blocks.

Jury sent out – Big argument over pictures of the excavation of the pit and Maria and the baby’s body.

Defense objects to the photos and the Judge overrules the objection saying each picture shows something distinct, as have been taken from different angles during the excavation with various measurements.

While graphic they are not unduly prejudicial.

Why the heck is this stuff being argued about now, in the middle of the trial?  Its not like this was just sprung upon the defense?

Jury back and Lee has Cobel identify the photos of the fire pit – or ‘grave’ as he calls it – and the victim’s bodies.  One shows the fetus being expelled from the mother!

Even though by law, North Carolina does not recognize death of a fetus as murder which is why Laurean isn’t charged with that, I can understand why the defense tried to claim the photos were prejudicial.

The testimony and photos are pretty gruesome based on the reaction in the court.

Some of Maria and the baby’s body parts were damaged so severely they separated from the main portion of the body.  The grave was less than two feet deep and three feet wide.

The fire pit was 109 feet from the house and not quite centered in the backyard.

Lunch is called.

Cobel is back on the stand.

All the photos are entered and published to the jury for review.

McNeil asks if the house looked like a family lived there.  He confirms.

He asks if he saw a jewelry box.  Cobel says yes.

Did you look in it?  No.

You saw a jacket with the name Laurean on it?  Yes.

Do you know if it was Cesar’s or his wife’s?  No.

McNeil asks how many agents were on the scene.  Cobel said 5 of them were doing hands on evidence gathering and documenting and photographing.

Did you look at the entire garage or just parts?  In the beginning he saw the areas of blood.  He looked through the plastic bins and then another agent dealt with the blood and he moved into the house.

They go through a bunch of knives, computers, and cameras that were taken as items of evidence.

You documented parts of the fence were missing?  Yes, four parts.

So someone could have looked into to the yard?  Yes.

Next witness is Cecil Jones, lays phone cable.  Not much from him, but he is the one who found Maria’s cell phone on the side of the road.

He dried it out and dialed a number for Maria’s sister who instructed him to call the Onslow County Sheriff’s Department.

He is shown a picture that he identifies as the area he found the phone in.

Well, they have totally screwed up the sound again.

He identifies the cell phone.

McNeil asks what date and time he found the phone and asks if it’s one of the busiest highways in the area with a lot on Marines, exiting the base.

Next up is Blake Costa, another Marine.

You can’t hear the prosecutor’s questions at all so the answers don’t make a whole lot of sense.

He knows Cesar Laurean. One of the NCO’s in his company.

He met Maria. She was part of the company.

He was a casual friend of Laurean.

Sounds like he had used Laurean’s truck on occasions.

Sept. 2007, Laurean told him he had consensual sex with Maria and he was stressing out because of the rape allegation.

Laurean wanted to do something with Maria, not necessarily harm her. He had an elaborate scheme to send her to Mexico before she could damage his career.

Reason for Mexico? She’d be a deserter and discredited as a Marine. It was a selfish act to salvage one’s career. He said he had family in Mexico.

Laurean claims the consensual sex was at a party and it was before Christina and his daughter arrived at LeJeune.

It was crazy and I understand why he was stressed.  I told him to get a civilian lawyer.  As a fellow Marine, I wanted to help him out.

McNeil asks what his highest rank was and ask why he has a lower rank now.


McNeil asks if it was common knowledge that Lauterbach had made the allegation against Laurean?  No.

McNeil gets him to describe Laurean as a good Marine.

Did Lauterbach ever say anything about Laurean to you? No.

Were you ever asked to supply a DNA sample?  Yes, I volunteered, there was a POSSIBILITY I touched the tools in the truck.

This goes to the crowbar!

Next Pamela Chavis. She worked as a sales person at the Post Exchange.  She saw Laurean and Maria shopping together several times.

She identifies Laurean in court.

Around December 11, Laurean was looking at crystal and asked what he could get for his grandmother.  She said ask your wife because she assumed they were married.  A very pregnant Maria said, “I am not his wife.”

McNeil tries to get her to say the PX was usually very busy and it was more so because of the holidays.  She agrees but says not her department – they were her only customers.

She identifies a picture of Maria.

Next is Randolf Revert, another Marine.  He inventoried and accounted for weapons for qualifying Marines at the rifle range.  Marines are there for a two-week period to qualifying.

During December 2007 – 10th thru 20th -, Laurean was being qualified at the range.

Now they are showing him a map of the area and asking what highway you would take to the range at the base.  Camp to town is about a 45-minute drive.

McNeil wants to know what activities would have happened on December 11th.  That would be class instructions for the day.  When the instructor was done and if you didn’t require extra help you could return to your section.

Court on break

Ah we aren’t crazy… It appears the judge’s microphone in the Laurean case is not delivering great sound. We are aware of the problem and will switch out the hardware at the first possible opportunity.

The transmission of live video from the courtroom to the Web is a complex technical process that involves not only cameras and microphones but satellites, web servers and even the weather. A problem at any step along the way could lead the video to “drop,” like a phone call or could result in less than optimum quality. WRAL engineers are monitoring the feed to bring you the maximum possible quality at any given moment.

Jodi Leese Glusco

Managing Editor, WRAL.com

Justin Goodman, another Marine.  He was assigned to the rifle range during Dec 10 thru the 21st when Laurean was there.

He recalls Laurean being there on Friday Dec 14.  Weapons were turned in and Goodman was finished by 8:36 for the day.

McNeil wants to know if this is general description of how things usual go or does he have a real recollection.  He says it is a pretty real recollection

Next, SGT. Trocon Brumskine.  Maria was in his troop.  December the 14th she arrived 7:30 and left at 3:30.  Pregnant woman get shorter hours.

He was aware of the military protective order Maria had against Laurean.  The order said Laurean had to stay away from Maria.  So if they were seen at the PX that would have been a violation of the NPO?  Correct.

Did you ever see Laurean with Lauterbach?  No sir.

You saw her on the 14th?  Yes sir.

Was she acting strangely?  No.

Did you talk to her about the baby?  Yes, she was going to give up the baby, the next week she was keeping the baby.

She apparently told him she was pregnant as the result of a rape and he knew that was Laurean.

Did you ever see her depressed?  Yes, she was already pregnant and some days she was happy, some days sad.

Did she seem relieved about the NPO being in place?  Yes sir.

Somewhere around 2 months before the murder she told him she wanted out of the Marine Corp because of the rape.

Next, Rashawn Hames, he lives in Jacksonville.  He worked at the Greyhound bus station as a ticket agent.

Military gets a 10% discount when they show ID.  He sold Maria a ticket on the 14th.

They talked about her time in the military being almost done.  She also asked if she could leave her car in the lot.  He told her at her own risk.

Her ticket was Jacksonville to El Paso, Texas.

She told him she was pregnant by somebody on the base and she was leaving and would be with him.  She also told him the military said they couldn’t be together.

OMG, if Laurean told her about his family and Mexico, was she thinking she was meeting them in El Paso?  That would explain a whole lot!!!

He identified a picture of Maria’s car.  The next week he saw the vehicle in the parking lot.  He went on vacation after Christmas and when he returned the car was still there.

Hames is released.

Next is Kim Bucek, she owns a childcare facility which opened December 1999.  The center is about 5 miles from LeJeune. She knows the Laurean’s because they cared for Laurean’s daughter in 2007.

They utilized sign-in and sign-out sheets to keep track of what children were in the facility.  The parent signs and the time is entered.

Cesar would drop the child in the morning and Christina would usually pick her up.

Bucek identifies 2 sign-in sheets.  The sheets are required to be kept for 3 years.

One sheet is from Dec 6 the second is for the 14th.  Cesar signed in and out for Abrianna on the 6th.

The 14th, she was signed in and out by Christina.

In January, only Christina was bringing the little girl in.

McNeil asks if she remembers on January 17 talking to NCIS Agent Hawks.  She remembers Onslow County detective but not NCIS.

Did you tell Hawks it was sometimes hard to tell the difference between Cesar and Christina handwriting?   No, they are different; Christina’s is more feminine and rounded.

She is excused.

Next witness is Frank Terwilliger, OCSO.

January 7 he was looking for Maria’s car.  He found it t the bus station and verified the tags were Maria’s.  There were no keys and nothing remarkable in the vehicle.

The car was towed to the Sheriff’s Department.

He identifies a photo of Maria’s car.

McNeil asks how long the department was looking for the vehicle.  Since the missing person report was issued.

Terwilliger pretty much stumbled on the car and recognized it.

He is discharged.

Court recesses till 9:30am

Well, there you have it with some missing pieces due to feed problems.  Hopefully it will be much better tomorrow!

  1. Ritanita
    08/12/2010 at 5:39 pm

    I was thunder-stormed off the trial. Thanks for filling in everything I missed! I sure hope tomorrow’s feed is better.

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