Mary Lauterbach fought back tears Tuesday, Aug. 17, during her hour-long testimony in the trial of a former Marine charged with killing her pregnant daughter, Marine Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach.
The Vandalia mother testified about adopting Maria as a toddler, how the two argued about whether Maria should give up her baby for adoption and their last conversation before the 2006 Butler High School graduate vanished.
“This was certainly a tough day for Mary,” her attorney Merle Wilberding said after her testimony in the Wayne County Superior Courthouse in Goldsboro, N.C.
“I thought she did a nice, graceful job of talking about her last conversation with her daughter on Dec. 14 (2007) and doing it in the environment where she has seen and heard so many tough details of the death of her daughter.”
Cesar Laurean is charged with killing Lauterbach, 20, and burning her body in a fire pit in the backyard of his home in December 2007.
Lauterbach and Laurean were personnel clerks together in a combat logistics regiment at Camp Lejeune.
Lauterbach was about eight months pregnant when she died. She had told Navy investigators that Laurean raped her in 2007, though later recanted her claim that he impregnated her. DNA tests revealed Laurean wasn’t the father.
Defense attorney Dick McNeil told jurors in his opening statement that Lauterbach had a history of theft and lying. He focused on that during an often contentious cross-examination about Lauterbach’s health, finances and truthfulness.
“My opinion is Maria certainly told the truth,” Mary Lauterbach said, “but there were occasions where she would start coming up with stories.”
McNeil asked the witness if she remembered telling the police her daughter was a compulsive liar. Mary Lauterbach said she told police her daughter had “occasional problems with compulsive lying,” but denied calling her a pathological liar.
The rest of Maria’s family — her father, Victor, and four siblings — are expected to be in the courtroom today, Aug. 18, Wilberding said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.