RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A ruling by the N.C. Supreme Court will allow a wrongful death lawsuit against a former Marine convicted in the death of a pregnant colleague to proceed.
Cesar Laurean was convicted by a jury in August 2010 of first-degree murder in the bludgeoning death of Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach of Vandalia, Ohio. Laurean is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole at a high-security men’s prison in North Carolina.
Court officials said Monday’s decision will allow a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the Lauterbach family against Laurean and his now-former wife to move forward. The litigation was stayed last year until after Laurean’s chances at appeal could be determined.
Laurean’s appeal claimed his constitutional rights were violated by a judge who didn’t allow the jury to consider second-degree murder as a possible verdict based on a lack of evidence of premeditation.
The state Court of Appeals upheld Laurean’s conviction in May. At that time, defense lawyers said jurors also should have heard that Lauterbach’s accusation that Laurean raped her may have come because he disciplined her for mistakes. The court ruled such evidence was not relevant and was properly excluded.
Laurean was convicted of killing Lauterbach, 20, with a crowbar in December 2007 and burying her charred remains in the backyard of his off-base home. Lauterbach was about eight months pregnant when she died.
Laurean fled North Carolina in 2008 as investigators closed in and escaped to Mexico where he was found three months later. Prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty so Mexican authorities would return Laurean, who was born in Guadalajara, to the U.S.
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