Saturday, July 07, 2001

Husband held in Army sergeant's 1996 death




By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — Calling the murder of his Army-sergeant daughter nearly five years ago “sad and morbid,” a 51-year-old Hamilton man said Friday he hopes the arrest of Laura Cecere's estranged husband will “bring some justice.”

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Laura Cecere and Max P. Roybal on their wedding day in 1994.
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        “I still hope they can find her remains and we can have a proper burial,” said Pete Cecere.

        Mr. Cecere said he has suspected Max P. Roybal from the beginning. “I think he was trying to collect the insurance money.”

        Mr. Roybal was arrested Thursday at a fitness center 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, 25, and his former fiancee, Karen C. Anderson of Clarks ville, Tenn.

        Sgt. Cecere had been missing since 1996.

        She grew up in Seven Mile in Butler County and attended Talawanda High School, but moved to Fountain City, Ind., during her senior year. She graduated from high school there in 1988, and joined the Army in 1989.

        Dogged work by investiga tors led to the arrest of the Fort Campbell man for the two deaths, the Montgomery County, Tenn. district attorney said Friday.

        District Attorney John Carney said meetings over the past six months of his staff, investigators at Fort Campbell and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spurred the arrest.

        “There was nothing new, no great revelation that fell out of the sky that caused us to do that,” he said Friday. “It came from reviewing the facts and deciding when to pursue it.”

        Mr. Roybal had worked as an aviation contractor at the base since 1996, according to Fort Campbell spokesman George Heath.

        Mr. Roybal married Sgt. Cecere in September 1994, two months before Ms. Anderson's death. Authorities said Ms. Anderson had been engaged to Mr. Roybal. Sgt. Cecere had separated from Mr. Roybal at the time of her disappearance on Dec. 6, 1996.

        Sgt. Cecere's family has said the marriage to Mr. Roybal apparently was arranged to make her eligible for additional housing allowances from the Army, the Kentucky New Era newspaper reported.

        Authorities said Mr. Roybal had life insurance policies on both women.

        Sgt. Cecere was the only female instructor at Fort Campbell's Sabalauski Air Assault School when she vanished. Her death was confirmed when her jawbone was mailed to Hopkinsville, Ky., television station WKAG in July 1997, but the rest of her body hasn't been found. Authorities now think Mr. Roybal mailed the jawbone.

        Mr. Carney said that despite several extensive searches by authorities, there are no leads on where the remainder of Sgt. Cec ere's body is located.

        Ms. Anderson's Nov. 11, 1994, death initially raised no suspicions. Results of an autopsy led police to believe she had suffered a seizure and died of natural causes.

        But after learning of Ms. Anderson's connection with Mr. Roybal, investigators became suspicious. Her body was exhumed from a rural Montgomery County cemetery in March 1998, but the findings have not been released.

        Sgt. Cecere was last seen alive in surveillance video at a Wal-Mart store in Clarksville.

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

        Mr. Roybal was being held without bond in the Montgomery County Jail.

        “I wouldn't want anyone to live through what I and the family has lived through,” Mr. Cecere said. “Time has helped some.

        The Associated Press contributed to this report.

       



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