Forensic Psych

Burning Love: The Death of Maria Lauterbach

Burning Love: The Death of Maria Lauterbach

Characteristics of the Crime

Twenty year old pregnant Lance Corporal Maria Lauterbach of the Marines was reported missing on December 19, 2007 when she did not report to work and her cell phone was discovered on the side of a highway in North Carolina. America’s Most Wanted (AMW) reported that she had withdrawn $700 from her bank account and bought a bus ticket to El Paso, TX. She had told the bus station ticket agent that the father of her baby was a fellow Marine and he would be following her shortly (Dalesio, 2010). However, she never used the ticket and her vehicle was found a few days later on December 20 in the bus station parking lot (Charbonneau & Burns, 2008; Wilson & King, 2008). Law enforcement began to investigate Cesar Laurean, a fellow Marine who had been accused of raping Lauterbach earlier in 2007. AMW reports that after being questioned, Laurean fled. On January 11, 2008, Laurean’s wife gave a note to the police from Laurean. It told police that Lauterbach had come to his house and argued with him and then proceeded to commit suicide by cutting her own throat (Jabali-Nash, 2010). Laurean said that he then buried her body in his backyard. Law enforcement uncovered Lauterbach’s remains in Laurean’s backyard in January 2008. She had been hit over the head and had a knife wound to her neck. She and her unborn baby’s charred remains were buried below Laurean’s fire pit in December 2007, along with a bag of baby clothes (Friedman, 2010; Donchais, 2010). On December 24 Laurean was seen attempting to use Lauterbach’s ATM card and also buying concrete blocks and a wheelbarrow from Lowe’s, which looked strikingly similar to the blocks around the fire pit Lauterbach was buried under (Thomas, 2008). Laurean was on the run, but was later apprehended inMexico in April 2008 and charged with the murder of Lauterbach along with robbery and attempted fraud for attempting to use her ATM card (Friedman, 2010). On August 23, 2010 Friedman reported that a jury found Laurean guilty of all three offenses against Lauterbach and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.


Characteristics of the Offender

Cesar Laurean was a 21 year old, Hispanic Corporal with the Marines when this murder occurred. He was originally fromMexico, but was raised inNevada(Thomas, 2008). Cesar Laurean was described by a friend as a quiet person with a lot of friends. The Sheriff described Laurean as respectful, polite, and responsive. Laurean was also known by friends to be someone who could easily survive on the run because of his training with the Marines (“Friend of Marine,” 2008; Joshi, 2009). In 2007 he was accused of raping Lauterbach and fathering her child (Dalesio, 2010). Dalesio reported, however, that evidence showed that he was not the father of the unborn child. A friend reported that Laurean had consensual sex with Lauterbach and there were even rumors at points during the investigation that the two were actually going to run away together, but a friend of Lauterbach said that was impossible (“Friend of Marine,” 2008). Laurean was never arrested for the rape because there was no evidence and he denied the charges (Friedman, 2010). In 2008, however there was certainly evidence that he committed the murder. When law enforcement found the charred bodies in his backyard, he fled toMexicoand lived in a small cabin, sleeping on a pile of cardboard and living off of avocados (Associated Press, 2008). Investigators believe that when Lauterbach showed up to Laurean’s house, he was angry and scared because of the rape accusations (Jabali-Nash, 2010). It is likely that he is an affective killer; killing Lauterbach out of a strong emotion. He may have felt that she took the control he had in his life because she was accusing him of rape and that accusation could get him discharged from the Marines and cause his wife to leave him. This may have caused him to feel as though he needed to show Maria that he was dominant and had power over her; she could not take away the life that he had made for himself. When she accused him of rape, he could have also felt that he had lost the order and structure of his way of life. Without order, he could lose his way of life, such as his position with the Marines, his marriage, and even custody of his daughter. In fact, when he was speaking to NCIS, he was reported as asking what would happen to the rape case if Maria never returned from her supposed Unauthorized Absence (Donchais, 2010). This question suggests that he was trying to find out if he was going to be able to get the control and order back in his life. In addition to these motives, we see another important factor in this case. Cesar Laurean had searched the internet in January 2008 for items such as how a homicide investigation is done, lawyers in the area, news about the rape allegations, and employment inMexico(Kay, 2010). This fact, combined with the fact that he eventually did flee toMexico, suggests that he was aware of what he had done and he was planning to flee. Although he does see that he has done something wrong, he also said and did some things that made it seem as though he was showing a self-enhancing bias and he was trying to cover up his guilt. He told a colleague that Lauterbach could stay with relatives inMexicoand he would join her as soon as possible (Dalesio, 2010). He also told a Mexican reporter that he loved Maria (Candiotti, Whitbeck, & Duran, 2008). When he was caught and charged with her murder, Laurean entered a not guilty plea (Joshi, 2009). This all sounds as though he was just covering his tracks and then denying he had anything to do with her murder, which fits well into a motive based on need for order and control. He was creating a story to make himself look better, a self-enhancing bias, and was denying that he had anything to do with her disappearance and death, when clearly the evidence showed that he did (Friedman, 2010). Regardless of his motive or bias, Cesar Laurean does not fit the typical profile of a loner who has a history of violence, but he did have a possible preoccupation driving him, namely, the rape accusation. No matter what the motives, drives or biases were, one thing is certain: Laurean was found guilty and Lauterbach’s family can now have some peace of mind.



Associated Press. (2008, April 12). Capture of Cabin Dweller Cesar Laurean Shocks Mexican Villagers Who Knew Him. Fox News. Retrieved from

Candiotti, S., Whitbeck, H., & Duran, J. (2008, April 11). Man accused in fellow Marine’s death captured. Cable News Network. Retrieved from

Charbonneau, M, & Burns, M. (2008, January 10). Stepmother: Missing Marine Assaulted by Officer. WRAL News. Retrieved from

Dalesio, E. P. (2010, August 23). Laurean sentenced to life in prison. Marine Corps Times. Retrieved from

Donchais. (2010, August 13). Cesar Laurean, Day 2 of Testimony [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Donchais. (2010, August 18). Cesar Laurean Day 5 of Testimony [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Friedman, E. (2010, August 23). Former Marine Cesar Laurean Found Guilty of Pregnant Colleague Murder. ABC News. Retrieved from

Friend of Marine on the run: ‘He’s like MacGyver.’ (2008, January 16). Cable News Network. Retrieved from

Fugitives: Cesar Laurean. (n. d.). In America’s Most Wanted. Retrieved from

Jabali-Nash, N. (2010, August 09). Marine Murder Trial: Cpl. Cesar Laurean Accused of Killing Pregnant Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach. CBS News. Retrieved from

Joshi, Parul. (2009, June 08). Cesar Laurean Pleads Not Guilty. WNCT News. Retrieved from

Kay, L. (2010, August 13). Laurean trial update: Tell-tale computer records. Retrieved from

Thomas, P. (2008, January 23). Suspect in Marine Death Believed in Mexico. ABC News. Retrieved from

Wilson, B. & King, H. (2008, January 12). Sheriff: Lauterbach Had Bus Ticket To El Paso. WITN News. Retrieved from

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.