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A mother's point of view on sexual assault

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- When Mary Lauterbach shared a story of sexual assault April 8, she told it from a different perspective. It was not that of a victim, perpetrator or legal counsel, but from the mother of a murdered daughter.

Standing behind a podium, the adopted mother of Marine Lance Cpl. Maria Frances Lauterbach spoke to approximately 150 guests at the Sexual Assault Awareness Month luncheon at the Tinker Club.

Telling her daughter's story from adoption to death, Ms. Lauterbach said she has great respect for the military and the Marines' purpose, but was disappointed at how they handled her daughter's case.
"Sexual assault in the military ranks is a very corrosive thing and it can only do more harm as the role of women grows and people work more closely together," she said. "This is only going to become more of an issue and more important. It's a very serious thing. It is much more prevalent than you realize and it needs to be addressed with resolve, a firm hand and zero tolerance."

Ms. Lauterbach said she first heard of her daughter's sexual assault on Mother's Day in 2007 when her daughter called her in tears. She had been afraid to report the incident so she kept quiet for a month, but was now having trouble functioning in day-to-day life and didn't know what to do. Ms. Lauterbach urged her daughter to report the crime.

The next day, Corporal Lauterbach reported the incident and that very afternoon, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., interviewed her and her officer in charge.

"During that conversation, which was all documented in writing, they didn't discuss the sexual assault accusation at all. They only thing they talked about was Maria stealing money the prior November," Ms. Lauterbach said.

Corporal Lauterbach had stolen $30 from the office Christmas kitty.

Ms. Lauterbach said NCIS investigators didn't believe Maria's sexual assault charge. They didn't think her supervisor could have committed such a crime and assumed she filed a false report. The next week, they interviewed the perpetrator, 21-year-old Marine Cpl. Cesar Laurean, who denied committing the crime and provided two alibis. It was proved several years later, they were false alibis.

According to Ms. Lauterbach, Corporal Lauterbach provided NCIS officials with nine witnesses, but they were never interviewed. As NCIS encouraged Corporal Lauterbach to drop the case, the Marines continued to place her in situations where she'd be near him. Furthermore, Ms. Lauterbach said her daughter began facing harassment from the perpetrator's wife.

"No one believed her. Sadly, Maria had become what I call a 'perfect victim,'" Ms. Lauterbach said. "Problem is when you have a sexual predator present they seek out people like my daughter, who happened to be a very beautiful woman, too, because they know no one will ever believe her."

Ms. Lauterbach said by November, it was known that her daughter was pregnant, but few knew the pregnancy happened after the rape. The perpetrator suspected it was his child.
The last time Ms. Lauterbach spoke to her daughter was Dec. 14, 2007, when Corporal Lauterbach called her mother about having to attend a mandatory Christmas party. She had been sick and not wanting to go. Her mother urged her to put on a brave face and go for just 10 minutes.

About three hours later, one of Ms. Lauterbach's other daughters took a phone message from Corporal Lauterbach's roommate. The roommate, according to Ms. Lauterbach, had insinuated Maria wrote a suicide note and was now missing.

In what would be a very stressful couple of weeks, Ms. Lauterbach attempted to work with the Marines, NCIS and local police department in an attempt to locate her daughter. She said she found them very uncooperative, yet with the help of several clues the puzzle was eventually solved.

On Jan. 11, 2008, Corporal Lauterbach's murder made the news and her supervisor, Corporal Laurean had been linked to it. On Aug. 24, 2010, Corporal Laurean was convicted of Corporal Lauterbach's murder. He had hit her with a crowbar, burned her body and buried it in a fire pit in his backyard. She was eight months pregnant.

"This guy was someone who was very popular, and he and my daughter shared a common workforce and (the Marines) were very resentful that this man was being attacked. He was a top performer, extremely charming and I saw him at the trial and this man has the face of an angel, he truly does," Ms. Lauterbach said. "But he was also a sexual deviant. He had a lot of pornography on personal computer at work and home. He was into all kinds of strange things. He truly was a sexual predator and everyone else was blind to it."

Ms. Lauterbach said there are many lessons to come from this story. At the top of the list she said both the accuser and the victim need to be protected, even if there's a possibility that someone lied.

"I understand sexual assault crimes are very difficult to prosecute because you have a 'he said, she said' situation and what do you do with that?" Ms. Lauterbach asked. "One thing you always have to remember is if someone has a bad reputation, they will turn themselves into the perfect victim.

"I implore you please be pro-active in protecting our victims and just know when you're looking out for them, they are in a very vulnerable position and you could be saving their lives," Ms. Lauterbach said.