01/26/10 — Judge moves murder trial

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Judge moves murder trial

By Steve Herring
Published in News on January 26, 2010 1:46 PM

The district attorney who will prosecute a former North Carolina Marine charged with murdering his former girlfriend said this morning he is pleased the case will be heard in Wayne County Superior Court this June.

Dewey Hudson, the district attorney for the Fourth Prosecutorial District, announced at a Monday afternoon press conference that a change of venue had been granted in the murder trial of Cesar Laurean.

The trial is scheduled for June 28 in Wayne County Superior Court. A judge has yet to be named to hear the case. Hudson said he and his chief assistant district attorney, Ernie Lee, would prosecute the case.

Laurean is charged with murder in the death of 20-year-old Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach of Vandalia, Ohio, who was pregnant.

He fled to Mexico shortly before her charred remains were found buried in his back yard in Jacksonville in January 2008.

He was arrested in April 2008, and extradited to North Carolina last year.

Onslow County Superior Court Judge Charles Henry approved the change of venue, Hudson said during the press conference.

Henry said the trial should be moved because pretrial publicity surrounding the case might influence jurors. Laurean's attorney had requested a different venue.

Hudson did not object.

"The judge's understanding is that Wayne County receives most of its television news from the Raleigh area and not so much from Channel 7, 9 and 12 market that had more extensive coverage of the case," Hudson said this morning in a telephone interview.

"It will be hard to go anywhere and find people who have not heard about it because of the national coverage. I am not interested in it taking a year to find jurors. I am interested in 12 jurors who may have heard about it but that have not formed an opinion of innocence or guilt. I feel that would be very difficult to find in Onslow County."

Hudson said Wayne was not one of the counties he had recommended. He said he was trying to keep the trial inside the other counties -- Sampson, Jones and Duplin -- that make up his district or that adjoin Onslow County.

Court officials in some of the other counties said they did not want the case because they were already "inundated" under a backlog of cases, he said.

Hudson said he had spoken with his "good friend," Wayne County District Attorney Branny Vickory, who had assured him that the facilities needed to conduct the trial, telephones, Internet and storage, would be available.

"Court officials in Wayne County have been very receptive and very helpful," he said.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.