Sunday, July 08, 2001

Tupperware key find in arrest

Dead woman's jawbone mailed in plastic container

By Earnest Winston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A Tupperware container may be a key piece of evidence that investigators used to link the death of Army Sgt. Laura Cecere to her estranged husband.

Laura Cecere and Max P. Roybal on their wedding day in 1994.
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        Max Roybal was arrested Thursday on the Fort Campbell, Ky., Army post and charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of abuse of a corpse in the deaths of Sgt. Cecere and his former fiancee, Karen C. Anderson of nearby Clarksville, Tenn.

        Sgt. Cecere, a native of Butler County who attended Talawanda High School, was the only female instructor at Fort Campbell's Sabalauski Air Assault School when she vanished in December 1996.

        Initial evidence of her death surfaced when someone — still unidentified — mailed her jawbone to Hopkinsville, Ky., television station WKAG in July 1997. It was identified through dental records.

        The jawbone arrived in a Tupperware bowl that matched a set that investigators found when they searched Mr. Roybal's Clarksville, Tenn., home in 1997, Sgt. Cecere's father, Pete Cecere, said authorities told him.

        “I was told (Mr. Roybal) had a Tupperware bowl set,” said Mr. Cecere, of Hamilton. “They took that Tupperware bowl set and the one that Laura's jawbone came in and (ran forensic) tests on it.

        “They told me the report said the Tupperware bowl that Laura's jawbone was in belonged to that set that he had,” he continued. “They said that was the first physical evidence they had linking him to the crime.”

        Nothing else has been found.

        John Carney, district attorney in Montgomery County, Tenn., declined to discuss any evidence gathered in the case.

        Mr. Carney said Mr. Roybal collected $85,000 as the beneficiary of Ms. Anderson, who died in November 1994.

        Mr. Carney confirmed that Sgt. Cecere had at least two insurance policies worth a total of more than $500,000 but Mr. Roybal, the beneficiary, had not collected any money because those policies were part of the investigation.

        Mr. Roybal married Sgt. Cecere in September 1994, two months before Ms. Anderson's death.

        With her son-in-law's arrest, Sandra Cecere of Moulton, Ala., has turned her focus to finding her daughter's remains.

        “My main concern is finding her and getting a conviction for her murder,” Ms. Cecere said. “It's something you live with every day. A day doesn't go by I don't think about her. I have a lot of her stuff with me. I just think if she was with me now she would really be enjoying herself.”

        Mr. Roybal is being held without bond in Tennessee's Montgomery County Jail. Mr. Roybal, who could be arraigned this week, has been an aviation contractor at Fort Campbell since 1996, an Army spokesman said.

        Sgt. Cecere's family said she was a lesbian and may have married Mr. Roybal to receive higher housing benefits. The pair separated a few months after marriage. She was last seen Dec. 6, 1996, withdrawing money from a cash machine in Clarksville, Tenn.


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