Thursday, April 20, 2000

Soldier's slaying yields clues

Test results awaited in '96 case

The Associated Press

        FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. — Tennessee law-enforcement officials say they may be close to a break in the case of a soldier assumed to have been slain.

        Sgt. Laura Cecere of Oak Grove, Ky., a native of Butler County, Ohio, was the only female instructor at Fort Campbell's Sabalauski Air Assault School when she vanished in December 1996. Her jawbone was mailed to Hopkinsville television station WKAG in July 1997, but the rest of her body hasn't been found.

        Anonymous letters sent later to WKAG and to police agencies said Sgt. Cecere had died in an accident, but authorities think she was the victim of a homicide.

        John Carney, district attorney general in Montgomery County, Tenn., said investigators are awaiting results from scientific tests on evidence collected in the case. He declined to provide specific details.

        “I think we will certainly be closer if we get positive results back from the tests,” Mr. Carney said. “Then we're going to have to look and see if that is going to be sufficient, coupled with everything else we've got, which is a large volume of circumstantial evidence.”

        Sgt. Cecere was last seen alive by a surveillance camera at a Wal-Mart store in Clarksville, Tenn., on Dec. 6, 1996. Surveillance video showed her withdrawing a small amount of money from a bank machine inside the store.

        Her truck was found three weeks later in the parking lot of a nearby apartment complex.

        Mr. Carney said Sgt. Cecere's husband, Max Roybal, a civilian employee of the Army post, has been a suspect in the case since the investigation started. Mr. Roybal, who has not been charged with any wrongdoing, and his wife were separated at the time of her disappearance.

        The victim's mother, Sandra Cecere of Richmond, Ind., said she remains optimistic that the slaying will be solved.

        “I have no doubt that some day it will be, but (with) the time (that has gone by), it could be years or it could be tomorrow,” she said.

        The family has found it difficult to get past the disappearance, Mrs. Cecere said.

        “Everybody misses her everyday, and sometime everyday someone is crying about her.”


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