Friday, January 11, 2008

Marine Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach

Remember Our Heroes

Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, 20, Dayton, Ohio


A missing 20-year-old Marine due to give birth any day is dead and a senior officer accused of raping her is a suspect, a North Carolina sheriff said Friday.The body of Maria Lauterbach, who vanished last month before she was to testify in a military probe, was located in a shallow grave Friday morning, said Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown at a press conference.

Lauterbach alleged that she was sexually assaulted by a senior officer but that the investigation had gone sour, according to court documents.

A witness came forward to tell authorities where Lauterbach’s body was buried, Brown said. Brown wouldn’t comment on cause of death.

Lauterbach, a lance corporal, made the allegation to her stepmother, who also told investigators that her stepdaughter was bipolar and had a history of compulsive lying, according to the documents filed this week.

Lauterbach’s roommate, Marine Sgt. Daniel Durham, isn’t a suspect in the case. But authorities believe Durham to be the last person to speak with the missing woman, who may have been monitoring the case while on a training mission in California.

The documents state Naval investigators had struggled to investigate Lauterbach’s allegations because of inconsistencies in her account. Still, the court papers said the anticipated birth of the baby “might provide evidentiary credence to charges she lodged with military authorities that she was sexually assaulted by a senior military person.”

Lauterbach was reported missing Dec. 19 by her mother, believed to be one of the last people speak with her on Dec. 13.

Authorities said Thursday they planned to question the superior officer at Camp Lejeune. Her stepmother said the officer threatened the missing woman’s career, and search warrants filed this week state the woman was facing a possible discharge from the Marine Corps. No reason was provided.

Lauterbach, originally from Dayton, Ohio, was reported missing Dec. 19 by her stepmother, who last spoke with her five days earlier, authorities said. The Marine’s cell phone was found Dec. 20 near the main gate at Camp Lejeune, and she missed a Dec. 26 prenatal care appointment.

Lauterbach’s blue 2006 Hyundai Sonata was found at the Jacksonville Bus Station Monday night. She had purchased a bus ticket to El Paso, Texas, the day after she spoke with her stepmother, but the ticket has not been used, according to the sheriff.

Durham told authorities during an initial interview that he didn’t report his roommate as missing because some of her personal items were gone from the residence.

According to court documents, state authorities searched Durham’s laptop because they believe the woman may have used it to search for directions on the Internet, as well as her cell phone records and the residence she shared with Durham.

The warrants said a white male tried to use the missing woman’s ATM card on Christmas Eve and attempted to cover the ATM’s security camera with a rag. Brown declined to say where the card was used.

Brown has declined to comment on the rape allegations, as have officials at Camp Lejeune. Wayne Mixon, a Naval Criminal Investigative Service special agent at Camp Lejeune, declined to discuss specifics of the case, other than to say the agency is assisting the sheriff’s department with investigative leads in the Marine Corps.

Camp Lejeune officials said the missing woman, who is assigned to the 2nd Marine Logistics Group of the II Marine Expeditionary Force, joined the Marine Corps in June 2006, trained as a personnel clerk and had not deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.

Lauterbach is due to give birth any day, and was expected to testify about an incident on the Camp Lejeune, N.C., base.

Documents show that her stepmother told investigators about the assault, and that her career was threatened.

Mary Lauterbach, the pregnant Marine’s mother, said it’s not like her daughter not to contact her.

“It’s extremely out of character for her not to call home like this,” Lauterbach told FOX News. “I’m deeply concerned that something’s wrong.”

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