It’s a crime that may never be solved.
Ten years ago this month, a federal prosecutor was found dead in a Brecknock Township stream, within earshot of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Jonathan Luna, 38, an assistant U.S. attorney in Baltimore, had been stabbed 36 times and his throat had been slit, but he actually died by drowning in the shallow water.
The Lancaster County coroner ruled it a homicide. Luna’s boss vowed to find the killer. A $100,000 reward was posted by the FBI.
A decade later, the case has gone stone cold.
Officially, the inquiry remains open. But some who knew Luna, as well as amateur sleuths who have followed the case, say it’s never been much of an investigation.
They say it’s almost as if officials don’t want to find the killers.
“Something stinks,” said Ed Martino, of Blue Ball, a private investigator who spent years looking into Luna’s death. “You’re not talking about some street drug dealer, you’re talking about a young U.S. attorney.
“It’s not a difficult crime to solve. If you want to solve it.”
The Gentlemanly Prosecutor
Jonathan Luna seemed like a modern-day Horatio Alger, the son of a Filipino father and African-American mother who rose from the projects of the South Bronx to attend Fordham University, then get his law degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“He was just one of those guys who had charisma – there was always a smile on his face,” said Robert Reuland, an attorney and author who worked with Luna in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office in the late 1990s. “Prosecutors in Brooklyn tend to be fairly hard-nosed, crabby guys, but Jon was not that – he was cultured and gentlemanly.”
Luna became an assistant U.S. attorney in Baltimore in 1999. He was married to an obstetrician and had two children.
On Dec. 3, 2003, he was prosecuting a drug case that wasn’t going well. Two Baltimore men, Deon Lionel Smith and Walter O. Poindexter, were accused of selling heroin. Poindexter also faced a murder charge.
The chief witness, Warren Grace, was a convicted heroin dealer working as a paid FBI informant. But as Harrisburg author Bill Keisling detailed in his 2005 book on the case, “The Midnight Ride of Jonathan Luna,” Grace had broken the conditions of the confidential informant programs, slipping out of his electronic monitoring device and having heroin unrelated to the case in his vehicle, among other allegations. That information came out during the trial, and defense attorneys accused Luna of failing to disclose it.
Over lunch Dec. 3, Luna offered a plea deal. He was in his office working on the agreements late that evening when he left – apparently suddenly. His car was clocked leaving the parking garage at 11:38 p.m.; he left his cellphone and his glasses on his desk.
The Midnight Ride
Luna’s “midnight ride” took him to Delaware, where around 1 a.m. he withdrew $200 from an ATM at a rest stop near Newark. Then he traveled to New Jersey before crossing into Pennsylvania on the turnpike. At 4:04 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 4, Luna’s silver Honda Accord exited at the Reading-Lancaster interchange.
The toll ticket had blood on it, suggesting he already was injured.
At 5:30 a.m., an employee of Sensenig & Weaver Well Drilling, on Dry Tavern Road in Denver, noticed the Honda Accord, its front end hanging over a stream on the property. Blood was smeared on the driver’s-side door and front fender, and had pooled on the rear passenger-side floor. The car was still running.
Luna’s body was beneath it, in the water.