RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A Marine who fled to Mexico shortly before he was charged with killing a pregnant colleague in North Carolina returned to the U.S. on Friday.

Cpl. Cesar Laurean, 22, was extradited to face a murder charge in the death of Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, 20, of Vandalia, Ohio, said FBI spokeswoman Amy Thoreson.

Investigators believe he fled just hours before Lauterbach’s charred remains were found buried in his backyard in January 2008.

Onslow County District Attorney Dewey Hudson said he expected Laurean to arrive at the local jail Friday night and appear in court Monday. Mexican authorities captured him just over a year ago in the small town of Tacambaro, Mexico.

Thoreson said she wasn’t sure where Laurean entered the United States because several agencies were involved and plans changed several times during the day.

“He’s back in the United States,” Thoreson said. “Our goal is to get him all the way back to Onslow County to local authorities.”

Someone arrested on a felony charge must have a first-appearance hearing within 96 hours, Hudson said.

Laurean was charged with first-degree murder after Lauterbach’s remains were found in a fire pit behind the home he shared with his wife and daughter in Jacksonville.

Lauterbach, who was eight months pregnant, worked with Laurean at nearby Camp Lejeune. She had accused him of rape, but tests later confirmed he wasn’t the father of her unborn child.

Defense attorney Dick McNeil said he hasn’t been contracted by federal officials and has heard from Laurean’s family but not Laurean. McNeil said he expects his client to plead not guilty.

Hudson agreed not to seek the death penalty so Mexico would consider returning Laurean.

McNeil said when Laurean is in Onslow County, he can seek evidence from prosecutors and begin preparing a defense.

Lejeune spokesman Maj. Cliff Gilmore said the military intends to expel Laurean when he returns.


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