Even early in the coverage of the disappearance of the disappearance of Ray Gricar, the mysterious death of Jonathan P. Luna was mentioned. I found a reference to it on 4/16/051, when many of Mr. Gricar’s then constituents were probably unaware that he had vanished. I’ll admit it, the thought of Mr. Luna crossed my mind as well.
Like Mr. Gricar, Mr. Luna, 38, was a prosecutor, but not a local one. He was an Assistant United States Attorney, who prosecuted Federal criminal cases in Baltimore, Maryland. He was found dead in Brecknoch Township, outside of Denver, Pennsylvania, in Lancaster County on December 4, 2003. Like Mr. Gricar, there is the possibility, at least, that Mr. Luna was murdered. It is understandable that a parallel would be drawn between the two.
Never miss a local story.
I’m going to do several things in this three part entry. First, look at the Luna case. Second, to give a brief summary of the two conflicting theories in the Luna case. Third, look at the similarities and differences between the Luna and Gricar cases. Fourth, I want to look at the public case, what the press has been like and what the loved ones have done publicly regarding each case.
It started when an employee of a drilling company at 1439 Dry Tavern Road came to work in the pre-dawn hours of 12/4/03. He spotted some lights in the field beyond and went to investigate. He spotted a silver car, four door Honda Accord, nose ended into a drainage ditch; the car appeared to have blood on it. He called the police. It was Mr. Luna’s car. When the police arrived, they found Mr. Luna’s body, at least partly in a ditch.2
While the initial application for a search warrant indicated that Mr. Luna had a “traumatic head wound,” and initial reports said he was shot, the coroner found no such wounds. Mr. Luna had been stabbed 36 times, but the actual cause of death was drowning. On the 36 stab wounds, many were described as “pricks,” but one caused a serious, and potentially fatal, wound. The wounds were inflicted by a penknife size blade. His groin was bruised. Mr. Luna was wearing an overcoat, suit and tie, and his work identification was around his neck. There was no evidence of him being restrained.3, 4, 5
The condition of the car was interesting. There was a lot of blood in, and some on, the car; there was some blood on the left outside, and a pool of blood on the floor of the back seat. Currency was scattered around the passenger compartment. It was undamaged, however. No reports indicated that there was any evidence of someone else around the car. Several months later, a penknife, believed to be Mr. Luna’s, was found imbedded in the mud in the ditch. It has never been revealed if this knife was the one that inflicted the injuries. 4, 5
Mr. Luna’s route that night was interesting; he did not leave from home but from his office, the Federal District Courthouse. He left his glasses and cell phone in the office.5 He left the guarded building at 11:38 PM on 12/3/03 and drove away from his home in Elkland, MD. His home was south; he drove north on I-95. His E-Z Pass indicated that entered the Ft. McHenry Tunnel eleven minutes later. He continued north on I-95, stopping at an ATM near Newark (on I-95) at 12:47 AM on 12/4. There were no further electronic breadcrumbs until about 2:37 AM, when he got on the New Jersey Turnpike near Florence. 6
He crossed the Delaware, north of Philadelphia, and entered the Pennsylvania Turnpike at 2:47 AM on 12/4. He didn’t use the E-Z Pass lane. He stopped for gas along the Turnpike at King of Prussia at 3:20 AM; he used his debit card, and a witness remembered him.8 He got gas and bought something to drink. He exited the Turnpike at 4:04 AM, near where the car was found. 6 There was a trace of his blood found on the ticket.8
It was a strange route, about 200 miles, on a cold, late autumn night. It also had two gaps in it. Had Mr. Luna directly driven from Newark, DE to Florence, NJ, he should have arrived 30-40 minutes earlier. He left the Pennsylvania Turnpike at 4:04 AM and his body was spotted around 5:30 AM. Taking into account the drive time, to the spot where he was found, there could be an 80-85 minute gap. The FBI determined that Mr. Luna left the Courthouse alone, and that there was no evidence of anyone else in the car with him.7,
Some other strange things came out about Mr. Luna’s finances and his professional life. In terms of his finances, he had more than $25,000 in credit card debt; his wife, an obstetrician, had no idea about it.11 He had 16 credit cards, at least one unknown to his wife.12
Mr. Luna’s professional life was in greater disarray. He was in danger of losing his job; the United States Attorney for the region, Thomas DiBiagio, first denied the reports, then, after a leaked email, admitted it. Mr. Luna had actually hired an attorney to represent him.7
The case Mr. Luna was arguing on the morning of 12/3/03 had problems. The informant he was using changed his testimony. 7 Mr. Luna had to settle the case with a plea bargain favorable to the defendants; one of Mr. Luna’s last known telephone calls was to the defense attorney in the case, stating that he’d fax the plea agreement to him by midnight.9 In a rare move, the judge in trial fined Mr. Luna for being late on that day. While the fine was nominal, $25.00, it would be a technical sanction, one that could become an additional ground for his termination.10
Even with this, there was more. A few months before, Mr. Luna was prosecuting a robbery case. More than $30,000 in cash, evidence in that trial, went missing. Mr. Luna, with others, had access to that money. 11 Mr. Luna, and the others, was asked to take a polygraph. The others did, but Mr. Luna scheduled, and then cancelled, the appointment.7 It was reported that Mr. Luna somehow came into possession of more than $10,000, the source unaccounted for, shortly after the money turned up missing. 17
There are two general theories explaining what happened to Mr. Luna, suicide and murder.
Suicide has two variants. One, Mr. Luna was despondent over his financial and professional situation; the multiple wounds were hesitation wounds. Two, Mr. Luna wanted to avoid the polygraph and was trying to stage an attack; he cut too deeply. Even if Mr. Luna had nothing to do with the missing money, how would look if he was fired or resigned after the polygraph test? Baltimore isn’t huge and many, if not most, potential employers for a 38 year old attorney would probably know about it. It, along with some of the other things mentioned, would be a career killer. The theory of suicide, for either reason, has it’s proponents in the FBI.4, 13
Murder is the other possibility. There would be a question about who Mr. Luna might be meeting after 1:00 AM. The FBI press release indicated that they had evidence that he contact with someone else that night.7, 13, One suggestion, from some of the chattering class, is something personal, like a lover.14 Another possibility would be some type of a meeting with someone trusted.15 Another is the possibility that Mr. Luna was lured to his death by someone he prosecuted, or their friends or allies. The murder theory, though not any particular scenario, has, as its main proponent, the Lancaster County Coroner’s Office.
It’s because that last possibility, that Mr. Luna could have been murdered by a friend or ally of a perpetrator, and same person could have murdered Mr. Gricar, that I’ll be exploring next. What similarities and differences are there are between the two cases. I’ll also look at similarities and differences of the two men.
[Part 2, Parallels and Tangents, is next]
15 Mr. Luna driving through four states, in the middle of the night, for 200 miles, away from his residence, and ending up in a rural area would be suspicious, to say the least. That he did not call his significant other (unlike Mr. Gricar), did not fax the plea agreement, as promised, and had to be in court at 9:30 AM on the next day, really add to the suspicious nature of this.