Luna probe looks at lie-test angle

Investigators consider whether prosecutor was worried about passing polygraph exam

December 21, 2005|By MATTHEW DOLAN | MATTHEW DOLAN,SUN REPORTER

Investigators looking into the still-unsolved death of Jonathan P. Luna are exploring the theory that the federal prosecutor might have been so worried about passing a polygraph test that he took his own life, a source familiar with the probe confirmed yesterday.

The polygraph exam was part of an FBI investigation into about $36,000 of missing money from a robbery case handled by Luna. The prosecutor had access to the money, as did other officials and courthouse workers who took lie detector tests, the source said.

Luna postponed taking the polygraph before his death, according to the law enforcement source. The development in the case was first reported yesterday by The Washington Post.

The source confirmed new details about the polygraph but asked not to be named because the investigation is continuing.

Vickie E. LeDuc, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in Maryland, and FBI spokesman Barry Maddox declined to comment on the report.

Maddox said the investigation remains open, and agents are working one of several theories to explain Luna's death, including suicide and homicide.

Before his death in December 2003, Luna, who was more than $25,000 in debt, came into a large sum of money, and investigators have been unable determine its origin, according to the source. According to the Post, the amount was more than $10,000. But the law enforcement source said yesterday that the amount of money was significantly larger.

After two years of interviews and months of studying forensic evidence, FBI and Pennsylvania investigators say they cannot explain the circumstances surrounding Luna's death.

Luna, 38, had 36 stab wounds on his body when he was found face down in a shallow creek in rural Lancaster County. His Honda Accord was nearby with its engine running. Authorities say the cause of death was drowning.

The Lancaster County coroner's office ruled Luna's death a homicide in 2003, and that designation has not changed, Deputy Coroner Dr. James Biettel said yesterday.

Luna's parents, who declined to comment yesterday, have said they are still convinced their son was murdered.

But Luna did not appear to suffer substantial defense wounds on his hands that would be typical of a man trying to fight off an attacker, according to a source familiar with the investigation. Early reports that investigators had discovered blood from a second person at the scene are not true, the source said.

The FBI has found no evidence that the lawyer met with anyone in the hours before his body was discovered Dec. 4, 2003, in a Pennsylvania field.

But investigators have not labeled Luna's death a suicide and said they are committed "to obtaining all the facts surrounding that evening and subsequent morning," according to a statement released on the anniversary of the killing last year.

Authorities are trying to fill in a roughly two-hour gap in a timeline - approximately from 1 a.m. until 3 a.m. - that they have put together of Luna's activities on the night he died.

That is the time between when investigators say Luna used his debit card at a highway rest stop automated teller machine in Newark, Del., and when his car passed through the Delaware River Bridge toll plaza on Route 276 in Pennsylvania.

The FBI is offering a reward of up to $100,000 for "information of significant relevance" to the prosecutor's death.

matthew.dolan@baltsun.com

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