08/08/10 — Security in place for Laurean trial

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Security in place for Laurean trial

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 8, 2010 1:50 AM
Last update on: August 10, 2010 11:49 AM

Starting Monday morning anyone visiting the Wayne County Courthouse, at least for the foreseeable future, should expect two things -- snarled parking and waiting in line to clear heightened security.

The first signs, literally, of changes at the courthouse in advance of the anticipated public and media frenzy surrounding the first-degree murder trial of Cesar Laurean could be seen Thursday as new "no parking" signs were installed in county parking lots.

Jury selection is expected to begin Monday in the trial of Laurean, who arrived at the Wayne County Jail around 5:30 a.m. Friday.

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

Laurean fled to Mexico shortly before Ms. Lauterbach's burned remains were found buried in his back yard in Jacksonville in January 2008. He was arrested three months later and extradited to North Carolina in 2009.

The trial was moved to Wayne County because of pre-trial publicity in Onslow County. Judge Osmond Smith will be the trial judge.

The first three rows of spaces in the parking lot across Chestnut Street from the jail will be reserved for law enforcement officers.

Media will park on the lot across Walnut Street from the front of the courthouse.

Interviews will be allowed only in front of the courthouse. None will be allowed inside the courthouse.

Making it through the parking nightmare will be just the first step -- the public also must pass through tightened security including armed deputies from both Wayne and Onslow counties as well as the courthouse's regular security personnel.

Onslow deputies will be in the county under a mutual-aid agreement and will have the same authority as local deputies, Sheriff Carey Winders said.

Everyone who enters the courthouse, regardless of whether they want to sit in on the trial or not, will have to go through the same security, he said.

People entering the courthouse must pass through metal detectors and are subject to "intensive" searches, Winders said.

"There will be lines," he said. "If you have business to do here you probably need to get here early, be it the tax office, register of deeds. Get here early to find a place to park."

Other than assisting with the security procedures, Winders said Wayne County law enforcement personnel will not be commenting on or involved in the case.

"Our involvement in this case is providing security at the courthouse. It is strictly an Onslow County case," he said.

Along with security at entrances, certain areas of the courthouse will be off limits.

"Certain areas leading to Courtroom No. 1 (where the case will be heard) will be blocked," he said. "Stairwells will be marked that no one can go up."

Deputies will be in those areas as well.

In both cases, access will be "very strictly" controlled, he said.

County employees are being advised to arrive at work early, and GATEWAY stops near the courthouse temporarily will be moved farther away.

Each stop will be marked with a sign telling passengers where the stop has been moved.

The planned changes include:

* South End Route: Slocumb and Chestnut stop will be moved to Slocumb and Spruce; county courthouse stop will be moved to Spruce and William; the Senior Center stop will be moved to Mulberry and John; the Walnut Square Apartments stop will be moved to Daisy and Walnut.

* Northwest Route: Elm and John stop will be moved to John right after turning onto John from Elm; the courthouse stop will be moved to the Senior Center on John; post office/museum stop will be moved to the Mulberry Street side of the museum.

Just last week, the county enacted a parking ordinance for the county-owned lots that surround the courthouse.

The ordinance requires that vehicles be parked in marked designated spaces. Overcrowding has been a problem in the past with some people double parking and parking next to the traffic islands. Trial traffic is expected to make the matter worse.

Also, vehicles parked in handicapped designated spaces must display the necessary handicap decal and ones parked in reserved parking spaces must have the necessary information on the driver's side of the dashboard so that it can be seen from outside the vehicle.

Any vehicle in violation will be subject to being towed and stored. When that happens, the owner will have to pay the towing company for the cost of towing and storage.