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08/15/10 — The witness list

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The witness list

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on August 15, 2010 1:50 AM

A selection of state's witnesses who took the stand Friday:

Prosecution, Witness No. 13 -- Frank Davis: A former Marine and current vice president of Marine Federal Credit Union, Davis told the court his duties at the bank include managing ATM security and investigating fraud. He testified that he was called on to assist the Onslow County Sheriff's Office in its investigation of the December 2007 ATM usage of Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach's ATM card. Davis explained to the court how video surveillance is used in ATMs and revealed what he found upon reviewing bank records and ATM security camera footage associated with the charges against ex-Marine Cesar Laurean. Davis testified that on Dec. 14, a white female who was pregnant withdrew $700 using Lauterbach's card -- prosecutors contend it was Lauterbach. But on Dec. 21, four unsuccessful attempts to withdraw funds were documented by the bank. Two of those transactions were denied due to use of an incorrect PIN number, he said. And the other two -- the correct PIN was used -- were canceled due to insufficient funds in the account. Davis then told the court the Dec. 24 security tape showed a white male who "appeared to be trying to conceal himself," using the card. "He covered the camera," Davis said. But the device was still able to capture several images of the man, ones Davis saved onto his computer and used to create still photos for investigators. Those photographs were later introduced as evidence and members of the jury got to look at the man prosecutors claim is Laurean. Defense attorney Dick McNeil objected when the state asked Davis to compare the photos to one of the defendant and Superior Court Judge W. Osmond Smith dismissed the jury before telling prosecutors the jury was capable of making its own comparisons.

Prosecution, Witness No. 14 -- Malo Menard: Laurean's neighbor for more than a year, Menard told Assistant District Attorney Michael Maultsby he did not really know the defendant, but "had seen him around." But when asked questions about December 2007, he testified sections of the Laurean's fence were suddenly gone and that his neighbor lit a "bonfire" in his back yard around Christmas. Menard also told the court he saw a blue vehicle parked on the road around the day of the fire, and when he was shown a photograph of Ms. Lauterbach's car, he confirmed it was the blue Hyundai parked outside the Laurean home. During cross-examination, Menard explained the Laurean's dog, one he told prosecutors the defendant began tying up out front in the days after the fire, was small. McNeil then asked Menard if he had seen the blue car outside the Laurean's home on more than one occasion, to which the neighbor responded, "Yes." Menard also testified there were six or seven others around the fire the day it was burning, including Laurean.

Prosecution, Witness No. 15 -- Richard Alander: Also Laurean's neighbor, Alander told the court he, too, noticed sections of the Laurean fence going missing in December 2007. He also remembered the bonfire, particularly because, "My wife had been complaining of the smell." Alander then said he, too, had seen a blue car parked at the defendant's home around the time of the fire. During cross-examination, McNeil asked Alander about the car and Alander said it was "parked out front by the mailbox." The state asked one additional question before Alander stepped down -- the neighbor testified he had witnessed Laurean driving that blue car.

Prosecution, Witness No. 16 -- NCIS Special Agent Randy Dulay: An NCIS computer analyst, Dulay told the court his role in the Laurean investigation included involved copying the hard drives of government-owned computers issued to Laurean, his wife and Ms. Lauterbach. He testified he was tasked with reviewing the Web activity and documents on the computers and told the court what he found. He also explained that to access the computers, a Department of Defense ID card and PIN number are needed to verify the identity of the user. After examining the contents of the computers, Dulay wrote a report -- one he would share with the court. He testified Laurean conducted several Google searches after Lauterbach's disappearance, including one for "what happens in a homicide investigation" and another for a criminal defense attorneys in the Jacksonville area. Dulay also said Laurean conducted a Mapquest search for directions from his home just outside Camp Lejeune to a Holiday Inn in Raleigh and performed a Google search for employment opportunities in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Analysis of Laurean's wife's computer and that of Ms. Lauterbach, however, did not result in any findings relevant to the case, Dulay said. During cross-examination, McNeil asked Dulay if he had found any e-mails sent between Laurean and Lauterbach. Dulay testified he had not, but explained, "There is no way to tell once an e-mail is deleted." McNeil also asked if it could be determined how much time was spent at each Web site and Dulay said it would be difficult to know for sure.

Prosecution, Witness No. 17 -- NCIS Special Agent Graham Grafton: An NCIS special agent, Grafton told the court he was tasked to seize Laurean's work computer and any items located on his workspace that might be relevant to the search for Ms. Lauterbach. He testified he found several items of interest in the Camp Lejeune office, including a note containing the names and phone numbers of criminal attorneys in the Jacksonville area, and one that simple said "Arizona airport." During cross-examination, McNeil brought to light the fact that Grafton's wife, who is also an NCIS special agent, was assigned to investigate Ms. Lauterbach's sexual assault charge against Laurean. Grafton acknowledged he knew of his wife's involvement with that case and when asked if he knew who wrote the notes on Laurean's desk, he said he did not.

Prosecution, Witness No. 18 -- Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joel Larsen: The Officer in Charge of Laurean in 2007, Larsen told the prosecutors he was aware of Lauterbach's sexual assault charge against Laurean and had discussed the matter with him. "I asked him pointed questions about whether there was a sexual relationship there," he said. Lauren, Larsen said, denied any contact. The Marine then testified after the rape charge was made, Ms. Lauterbach was moved across Camp Lejuene from where Laurean worked. "There was a military protection order in place" so they were supposed to avoid contact with one another, he explained. Larsen also told the court he did not see Laurean at a Dec. 14, 2007, Christmas party everyone was aware they were supposed to attend. Then, on Dec. 17, Larsen found out about the note Ms. Lauterbach left for her roommate, Daniel Durham, about her intentions to leave the Marine Corps. He testified Laurean He said that Laurean wanted to know, "career-wise," how Ms. Lauterbach's disappearance would effect his rape trial. Then, on Dec. 27 of the same year, Laurean told Larsen that after deserting, Ms. Lauterbach had sent him flowers. "It was odd. Why would she send flowers, especially to him?" Larsen also answered questions about a phone call he received from NCIS on Jan. 8, 2008. Investigators, he said, wanted to talk to Laurean. Larsen told the court after the defendant was interviewed by NCIS, he started "asked a lot of questions" about Ms. Lauterbach and whether the rape charge would move forward if she never returned. The Marine also testified that Laurean wanted to deploy to Iraq -- that he was a "stellar performer." But he later told prosecutors his opinion of the defendant has since changed. During cross-examination, McNeil asked Larsen if he knew Ms. Lauterbach well and he said he did not, but acknowledged he had discussed her performance with other Officers In Charge. When McNeil asked Larsen if he knew of Ms. Lauterbach's reputation as "a discipline problem," the state objected, prompting Smith to ask the jury to leave the courtroom. In the absence of the jury, Larsen told the court it was his opinion that Ms. Lauterbach "is not credible" and had a reputation as someone who "stretches the truth." Smith then called a meeting with McNeil and prosecutors in his chambers and when they returned, he brought the jury back in and allowed McNeil to, again, ask Larsen about Ms. Lauterbach's reputation. "She's not always truthful," Larsen said.

Prosecution, Witness No. 19 -- Retired Master Sgt. Mariane Pruneda: One of the Officers in Charge of Laurean's wife, Pruneda told the court that on Jan. 9, 2008, she first learned Ms. Lauterbach was missing, so she told her Marines that CNN was reporting a missing Lejeune Marine and asked if any of them had any information about the case. Moments later, Mrs. Laurean, Mrs. Pruneda testified, came to her crying. "She was agitated. She was upset. She was crying." The defense objected to the Marine discussing the details of that conversation, so Mrs. Pruneda moved on to a phone call she received from Mrs. Laurean two days later. "She was literally hysterical on the phone." Mrs. Pruneda told the court, before explaining that later that day, she met the defendant's wife at an off-base McDonald's and drove her to an attorney's office. She then said while she waited for Mrs. Laurean to finish with the attorneys, NCIS showed up and took Mrs. Laurean to the Onslow County Sheriff's office, where she gave a statement to law enforcement.

Prosecution, Witness No. 20 -- Mary Yordy: A Duke University librarian, Mrs. Yordy told the court she was walking her dog in Durham near a bus station and found a debit card "in some vegetation." She then testified she took the card across the street to the Durham Police Department. When she turned in the card, the man at the desk "immediately recognized the name" on it as that of the missing Marine, she said.

Prosecution, Witness No. 22 -- Daniel McLeod: A Wake County Sheriff's deputy, McLeod told the court he reported to a motel in Morrisville to look for Laurean's truck after the Marine was believed to have fled in response to the investigation into Ms. Lauterbach's disappearance. He testified he found the truck at the motel and secured it before reporting the find to the Onslow County Sheriff's Office. The Onslow County Sheriff's Office arrived on scene several hours later, and after the truck was towed from the scene, McLeod said he was relieved from duty but stayed to secure the dumpsters on site for potential investigation. McLeod also told the court it takes approximately 15 minutes to reach the bus station where Ms. Lauterbach's card was found from the hotel where Laurean's truck was abandoned.

Prosecution Witness No. 23, SBI Special Agent Matthew Clifton, was the last person to testify Friday. He was still on the stand when court was recessed for the weekend and will resume his testimony about several crime scene investigations he was a part of when court is called back into session Monday at 9:30 a.m.

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