Friday, January 11

A Marine's Tragic Disappearance, Death - UPDATED 1/12

While this is not a crime that occurred in Raleigh, I feel it shouldn't be overlooked.

Not much is known about what happened to Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, though authorities are now saying they have substantial evidence that she is dead and buried somewhere in Onslow County. They do not know where her body is, or if the baby was born, or who the father of the child is. I've pasted a timeline of her case below.

There's much to be said about her case. Lauterbach accused a superior officer, 21-year-old Cpl. Marine Cesar Armando Laurean, of rape, but the investigation had gone sour. The police have named Laurean a suspect in this case, and he currently can't be located.

Recently, Lauterbach's stepmother said she was a compulsive liar and bipolar. I'm wondering if this had anything to do with the investigation not turning out in favor of Lauterbach.

This is all just pure speculation, but if Laurean is the father of the child, and denies sexually assaulting Lauterbach, the child's birth may be detrimental to his side of the story. The fact that Laurean has disappeared does not make him look good. And if this is true, I would say the Naval investigators did a poor job in looking at the allegations and in thinking Laurean was not a flight risk.

To read the search warrants in the case, go here.

Despite everything, this is yet another tragic case. More to come.


December 14: Lauterbach's stepmother, Mary Lauterbach, said she had a heated telephone conversation with her about putting the baby up for adoption. This is the last time anyone has heard from her.

December 15: Lauterbach purchases a one-way bus ticket to El Paso, Texas. The ticket has never been used.

December 19: Lauterbach is reported missing by her stepmother, who tells the police department that Lauterbach is 8 months pregnant and bi-polar, and had a history of lying.

December 20: Lauterbach's cell phone is found near the main gate at Camp Lejeune. Her roommate, Marine Sgt. Daniel Durham, is brought in for questioning, though he is not a subject.

December 24: An unidentified white male attempted to use Lauterbach's ATM card at the Marine Federal Credit Union. He attempted to cover the ATM's security camera with a rag.

December 26: Lauterbach misses a prenatal care appointment.

January 7: Lauterbach's car is found at a bus station near Camp Lejeune.

January 11: Authorities say Lauterbach is dead and buried somewhere in Onslow County, though they don't know where. Laurean is a suspect, but authorities cannot find him.

Update, 3:30 p.m.

Authorities have found what they believe to be Lauterbach's remains in a fire pit in the backyard of Laurean's residence. The remains are skeletal, charred, and dental records have been sent to confirm it is Lauterbach's remains. The remains of a fetus were also found.

Police were tipped off to the body by Laurean's wife, who found a letter from Laurean saying Lauterbach came to his place and cut her own throat. There was also a massive amount of blood on one of the walls, as well as some blood spatters on the ceiling and in the garage. It appeared as if someone had tried to clean the blood and paint over it.

Forgive me if I'm not buying Laurean's side of the story, especially since he hasn't been seen since 4 a.m. yesterday. An arrest warrant has now been issued for him.

Lauterbach had a private MySpace page, in which she last logged in on November 3. But she also had an old MySpace page where she last logged in in March, about 9 months ago, around the same time she became pregnant. It has some information about her, such as likes and dislikes.

Laurean also had a MySpace page, but it seems to have been cleared out. He last logged in on October 30.

There were several Facebook pages set up to help find Lauterbach, and some posted their memories of her. Yesterday, one girl wrote:

My best friend and I met Maria one weekend ths past October in Camp LeJeune. We came down to see some friends of ours and Maria, at that time, had lived in the barracks that our friends lived in and was friends with them also. I personally thought Maria was a very nice and welcoming girl, I had talked to her about her thoughts on being a female in the Marine Corps because at the time, I was in the process of making my decision to join. I just recently joined as an officer, and some of the things she said to me during our conversation that night helped me in my decision. We also talked about our fathers, she had told me that her father was a Master Sergeant and my father is a Master Gunnery Sgt, so we laughed and joked around about that together. She had also mentioned her rape to my friend and I, and by looking at her, you could tell she had a little stomach on her. My best friend and I found Maria to be a girl who had been emotionally drained and looking for someone to befriend her. My best friend and I gave her our numbers and told her that if she ever needed to talk, to just give us a call. Wednesday night when i saw her on Fox News Channel, I was in shock and disbelief. I told myself "that can't be the girl we met at LeJeune, it just can't be". Then yesterday when they released more pictures of her, I knew it was the same person. All of the new information released today just absolutely breaks my heart. She was an extremely friendly person and did not deserve anything that allegedly happened to her, including her prior rape. My thoughts and prayers are continuously with her family and friends. Semper Fi.

A horrible ending to the story. Hopefully this man, Laurean, will be caught soon. He's not someone who needs to be running away.

Photos from

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Friday, January 4

Drug raid leaves wanted Texas man dead - LAST UPDATED 1/8

If all is to be believed, Stephen Scott Thornton was a 45-year-old white male, a Texan, and a survivor of thyroid cancer. How he ended up in Wake County, N.C., I don't know. But news reports today say Stephen Thornton, who also goes by the alias Scott Monaco, was killed during a drug raid at a home in North Raleigh.

I haven't found much about Stephen, though the News and Observer wrote that as of yet he has not been identified as a suspect in the two-month long investigation of illegal growing of marijuana. He was identified by fingerprints.

While the police were conducting their raid, one officer, Sgt. Ronnie Byrd, was shot in the leg. He has been released from WakeMed. It is still not clear who shot whom, though a neighbor said he heard four or five gunshots and screaming.

The house where the raid was conducted is 5401 Alpine Drive, and has been a rental home for several years. According to Wake County Real Estate Data, the owner of the home resides in Florida, and the deed was transferred to her name in 2002.

So who exactly is Stephen Scott Thornton?

Well, googling his name provides a post on the Texans for Medical Marijuana website, where the man I'm assuming is the Stephen Scott Thornton in question admitted to growing his own medical marijuana since having his thyroid gland removed 10 years ago. He wrote that smoking and growing marijuana has helped him "go from a 145-pound weakling to a 180-pound healthy man," and he has helped other cancer patients by giving them marijuana, as well.

The post, last updated on September 28, 2006, also describes how he recently got busted, first by Collin County Police and then by the ATF. He wrote that he expected a two-three year federal sentence, in part because he owned a .9mm handgun.

"If I do not plead guilty I could easily get ten years or more prison sentence since I also owned a 9-mm pistol. By pleading guilty I expect a 2-3 year federal sentence. The feds wanted me to narc on the cancer patients I provide with marijuana but I would only narc on myself."

His account of the incident, however, differs from a press release about the case from the Wylie Public Information Office. The release says:

"On May 19 at approximately 9:06 pm, Wylie Police Officers responded to a neighbor disturbance involving weapons in the 1200 block of Silene Court in northwest Wylie. Officers subsequently arrested Stephen Scott Thornton, 43-year-old white male, for Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon. Thornton was transported to the Collin County Jail and a search warrant was obtained for his residence to search for the weapon that was used in the offense. As Wylie Officers executed the warrant, they observed in plain view, a large quantity of marijuana in the residence."

So Stephen's story on the pro-medical marijuana website sounds a bit different from what police said happened. Though really, it may be impossible to know the truth.

A bit of digging found me at Collin County's Case History service, where I found case 366-81652-05 (search by name), Stephen's still-open case of assault with a deadly weapon, complete with blatant notification of his outstanding warrant. It details the various events of the case from August 2005 through July 2007, in which the motion for counsel withdrawal was approved.

Stephen is also still on the exhaustive list of active warrants, found here (search "Thornton").

While Wake County police did not say if medical marijuana was found in the search warrant execution, one officer has said he saw marijuana plants inside of the house. The shooting is currently being investigated by the State Bureau of Investigation.

More as it becomes available.

Update: 1/5, 4:00 p.m.

A neighbor of Stephen's, 71-year-old Richard Walden, said he was outside when the raid was occurring. He told the News and Observer, "Then I heard someone screaming, 'Get away from me! Get off my property!' The next thing I heard was a banging sound, like an aluminum ladder leaned up against a home." It's safe to assume the banging sounds were gunshots.

I have two big concerns at the moment.

One: Did Stephen know these were cops? Ever since the Peyton Strickland case, my big concerns have been whether law enforcement officials make it known that they are in fact law enforcement officials. From my standpoint, I see a group of armed guys coming towards me, I don't just stand there and take it. And it's easy for law enforcement officials to assume the worst.

Two: This was a "special response team" deployed for a search warrant - why was that necessary? I don't know much about drug raids or the standard precautions, but a search warrant doesn't mean guilt. So, assuming this is unusual, which it may very well not be, why were several armed men executing a search warrant in this way?

Many, many questions in this case.

Authorities today were seen carrying marijuana plants out of the home, and said they've found drug paraphernalia. I'm interested to see if it was all marijuana related, especially considering Stephen's claim in his post that it was medicinal.

At this point I'm assuming Stephen was the only one in the house, as nothing has indicated otherwise. Sheriff Donnie Harrison has said the officials made a forced entry into the house. Who shot first, while maybe perceived as trivial, is an important fact to uncover, at least to me. In North Carolina, someone is permitted to use force (ie, a handgun) against someone is breaking into a home (though a few law enforcement friends of mine have always said to make sure that the intruder falls into the house). Keeping that in mind, if the law enforcement failed to identify themselves as such, Stephen's response was justified.

Though I don't know what went down, and probably won't for a while. It's not fair at this point to say who did what, so I guess it's the just-wait-and-see game for a bit.

Update: 1/8

Reports are now saying authorities confiscated 43 pot plants ("green vegetable material") as well as chemical lights, from Thornton's home. In all, 45 items were taken.

Apparently, Wake County Alcoholic Beverage Control Board officers received a tip that he was making and selling marijuana, and they did surveillance on the house for two months before the raid. Authorities checked the trash on January 3 and found marijuana stems and plant material, which tested positive for marijuana.

Another report was more descriptive about the search warrant: "Among the items seized were 43 marijuana plants in various stages of growth, four plastic bags of what appeared to be marijuana, soil additives, grow lights, plant-growing chemicals, a VHS tape entitled 'Frontline: War on Marijuana' and another entitled 'Pot of Gold.' Officers also seized books and magazines on growing marijuana and books described as anti-government, according to the warrant."

It's interesting to see how "anti-government" books were a factor in this.

Also, the US Marshal's Service had a full extradition order to return him to Dallas when he was arrested. This makes me wonder why they needed to fingerprint him to identify him.

One interesting note in the above-linked story is that Sheriff Donnie Harrison didn't say who shot first or whether Thornton was shot by a deputy. The choice of words is interesting - he "declined" to say. Does this mean he knows? Hopefully this won't be kept hush-hush for too much longer.

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