08/13/10 — From the witness list

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From the witness list

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on August 13, 2010 1:46 PM

Here is a selection of the witnesses from the first day of testimony in the Cesar Laurean trial:

Prosecution, Witness No. 1 -- Daniel Durham: Durham, a Marine with 10 years in the service, told the court the victim, Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, was his roommate in a house he owns just outside Camp Lejeune. The Marine described Ms. Lauterbach as someone who "kind of kept to herself," and when asked to detail the events of Dec. 14, 2007, told the court he returned from work between 4 and 4:30 p.m. and found a note written by Ms. Lauterbach that stated her intent to leave the Marine Corps. A portion of the note read, "Sorry, but I cannot take this Marine Corps life anymore." Durham testified that after finding the note, he tried to call his roommate's cell phone several times, but it went "straight to voicemail." He waited until the following Monday to notify Camp Lejeune officials about the note he found, hoping Ms. Lauterbach would return and was simply "blowing off steam." During cross-examination, defense attorney Dick McNeil asked Durham if Ms. Lauterbach owed him any back rent. Durham said she owed him $600. He also told the court that Ms. Lauterbach confided in him that she was unsure about whether to keep her unborn child or put the baby up for adoption.

Prosecution, Witness No. 2 -- Chip Coble: Coble, a crime scene search specialist with the SBI, told Assistant District Attorney Ernie Lee he was among those who searched former Marine Cpl. Cesar Laurean's home Jan. 11, 2008. Using GSI and Google Earth maps, he described the home to the jury, characterizing it as a "single-story, single-family home." Coble then told the jury what he found inside the house -- Laurean's passport, a Marine uniform and photos of the defendant and his family. But when the prosecution focused its questioning on the garage and back yard, the tone changed. Lee introduced several pictures into evidence, ones that detailed the "area of disturbed earth" found in Laurean's back yard. Coble said he and his colleagues did not really examine the area until the following morning, Jan. 12, 2008, because it was getting dark. Coble testified that when investigators performed an excavation at the site, they found "what appeared to be human remains." Ms. Lauterbach's mother started to cry as, moments later, photographs of the victim's remains were shown to the court and jury. McNeil objected to the photos, calling them "inflammatory," but Superior Court Judge W. Osmond Smith said he would allow the photos to be entered into evidence. And he also testified that during his investigation into Laurean's garage, dried blood was found, blood prosecutors said they will prove is consistent with Ms. Lauterbach's DNA. McNeil's cross-examination focused on whether or not the SBI found any items in the home that would indicate someone other than Laurean also lived there. Coble said there was a "jewelry box" and testified he could not be sure whether the Marine uniform he found belonged to the defendant or his wife, who is also a Marine.

Prosecution, Witness No. 3 -- Cecil Jones: A self-described underground construction worker, Jones told prosecutors he was the person who found Ms. Lauterbach's cell phone in the vicinity of Camp Lejeune's main entrance Dec. 20, 2007. When he picked up the phone, it was wet, he told the court, so he let it dry for several days before turning it on. When he finally turned it on, a male, he said, called the phone and instructed him to call Ms. Lauterbach's sister. He told the court he did so, and was told by the sister to contact the Onslow County Sheriff's Office. Jones testified he did so and turned in the phone. During cross-examination, McNeil only asked a few questions regarding how busy the road was and just how Jones came across the phone. Jones testified that he was driving down the road when he saw the phone and decided to retrieve it.

Prosecution, Witness No. 4 -- Blake Costa: A Marine who referred to himself as a "friend" of Laurean, Costa told the court he and Laurean hung out several times and that he even attended a "small barbecue" at the defendant's home. He testified that one day, Laurean called and asked Costa to meet him in a parking lot. Costa complied and testified that when he arrived, he got in Laurean's truck. The defendant, he told the court, proceeded to tell him that he had "consensual sex" with Ms. Lauterbach but was being charged with rape. Costa also said Laurean wanted to convince Ms. Lauterbach to move to Mexico, with the understanding that he would send her money as long as she stayed away. "She would be ... a deserter ad basically you're discredited as a Marine once that happens," Costa said. He also testified he told Laurean to seek civilian counsel regarding the situation. McNeil's cross-examination, again, did not take much time. At one point, he asked Costa what kind of Marine Laurean was, a question to which he replied, "He was a good Marine in our eyes."

Prosecution, Witness No. 5 -- Pamela Chavis: Chavis, an employee at the Camp Lejeune Base Exchange, told prosecutors she saw Laurean and Ms. Lauterbach shopping together many times, including one particular day, "near Christmas" 2007. She described Ms. Lauterbach as "pregnant and in uniform -- very pregnant." McNeil, during his cross-examination, confirmed that the store was large and that many people come in and out. He questioned Chavis on whether or not she could be sure the people she saw were the defendant and victim. Chavis said she was sure.

Prosecution, Witness No. 9 -- Roshaun Hames: Hames, a Greyhound bus ticket salesman, told jurors that he saw Ms. Lauterbach enter the station on Dec. 14 and asked her if she needed help. Ms. Lauterbach asked if she could leave her car in the parking lot. Hames testified that he assisted her in the purchase of a bus ticket from Jacksonville to El Paso, Texas. The bus ticket was for Dec. 15. Hames said Ms. Lauterbach told him that she was pregnant from someone at the base. He said she did not leave her car that day, but that he saw the blue car in the parking lot later on. When a photo of the car was admitted into evidence, Hames said the car was not parked as he remembered. Hames also said that Ms. Lauterbach told him that she was leaving the Marines because the Marine Corps "did her wrong." He described her as "a little distraught."

Prosecution, Witness No. 10 -- Kim Bucek: Ms. Bucek, the owner of a child care facility where Laurean's child attended said that Laurean usually deopped off his daughter and his wife picked her up. The state entered into evidence the sign-in and sign-out sheets from the day care from Dec. 6 through Dec. 14. On Dec. 6, Ms. Bucek said she arrived at 6:45 a.m. and left work after 5 p.m. during which Cesar Laurean both dropped off and picked up his daughter. On Dec. 14, she said she arrived at the day care at 6:50 a.m. and departed at 5:20 p.m., during which Laurean's wife signed their daughter in and out that day. She explained that Laurean usually brought the child in the early morning, but that beginning in Januray 2008, Mrs. Laurean began bringing the child to the center and she no longer saw Laurean. She reported that Mrs. Laurean continued to come to the day care for several months after the news of Lauterbach's death was reported by the media.