Hundreds attend vigil held for slain Marine

January 19, 2008 6:09:22 AM PST
More than 300 people gathered Friday night to remember a 20-year-old pregnant woman whose body was found in a shallow pit in the backyard of a fellow Marine whom she had accused of rape. The crowd gathered at a park for a candlelight vigil for Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach.

"It truly touches me to see that so many people cared about this young woman," said Cristal Romeo, 21, who organized the vigil.

Among those who attended was Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown.

"The stress to find her and her unborn baby is stress I have not felt in a long time," Brown said. "It is very tragic and I was very much hoping to announce that she had been seen alive on the first day, but six hours later, we had the terrible discovery of her death."

Those who attended the 45-minute ceremony could sign a banner for Lauterbach at the entrance to the baseball field at the park. The banner, and the gifts left during the vigil, will be sent to Lauterbach's family in Ohio.

Authorities say Lauterbach died of blunt force trauma to the head around Dec. 15 and are searching for Corporal Cesar Armando Laurean, 21, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Mexico. They believe he is in Mexico, hiding from an arrest warrant that charges him with Lauterbach's death.

Onslow County sheriff's investigators released a photo Friday that they believe shows Laurean using Lauterbach's ATM card. Investigators had earlier said an unidentified man had used the ATM card on December 24.

Lauterbach had accused Laurean of rape in May, a charged he denied to military investigators. Her burned remains were found last week.

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