The Pennsylvania State Police and Federal Bureau of Investigation are still investigating the 2003 death of a federal prosecutor whose body was discovered in Lancaster County, a state trooper testified in court Wednesday.
The status of the 17-year-old case is a deciding factor in whether a judge will order the release of recently discovered records.
Jonathan Luna, 38, an assistant U.S. attorney from Baltimore, was found dead on Dec. 4, 2003, in a stream by Dry Tavern Road in Brecknock Township. The married father of two had traveled 95 miles from his home after a late night at work and died from 36 stab wounds.
Trooper Chad Roberts -- who heads the Lancaster County area’s criminal investigations unit for homicides, missing persons and cold cases -- testified during a court hearing in LNP Media Group’s bid to unseal recently discovered records in the case. LNP Media Group is the publisher of LNP | LancasterOnline.
The records at issue in Wednesday’s testimony were sealed shortly after their late January discovery in the county’s archives, under concerns from the Lancaster County District Attorney’s office that their release would jeopardize an active investigation. The county’s coroner and solicitor offices had previously expressed belief that the records were missing or with the FBI, but had actually had access to them for more than a decade in its own archive.
Lancaster County President Judge David Ashworth held Wednesday’s hearing to allow the district attorney’s office to show there is an open and active investigation into Luna’s death. But Wednesday’s biggest revelation is that the FBI is still investigating and has a special agent assigned to the case that Roberts spoke to as recently as this year. The FBI previously said the case was closed “administratively” and that federal authorities believed it was a suicide, according to a 2013 Washington Post report.
FBI Baltimore Special Agent John Krajnak is assigned to the case, Roberts said. Reached Wednesday, Krajnak referred comment to the FBI’s spokesperson. Efforts to reach the spokesperson were unsuccessful.
All FBI investigations are listed as open or closed. Only investigations that have been solved or are past the statute of limitations are listed as closed. Homicide cases, such as the Luna investigation, do not have a statute of limitations, Roberts testified Wednesday. All other cases are considered open.
Lancaster County has 40 open cold cases, dating to 1940, Roberts said. There are 541 cold cases handled by State Police statewide.
Roberts pointed to the murder charges filed in 2018 in the 1992 murder of schoolteacher Christy Mirack. Raymond "DJ Freeze" Rowe was charged decades after murdering Mirack, following DNA evidence matched DNA Rowe's sister uploaded to a genealogy website. This is an example of a cold case that was solved, and releasing any investigatory evidence ahead of time could have jeopardized that, Roberts said.
Roberts said he was one of the responding officers to the crime scene in Brecknock Township on Dec. 4, 2003. He has had possession of the coroner reports since he became Troop J’s criminal investigations analyst in 2013.
New details also emerged about how the investigation has gone “cold” over the past decade.
Luna’s car is in state police possession at Troop J’s impound lot at its barracks. The silver Honda Accord was found at the scene, covered in blood. But Roberts hasn’t analyzed it for more evidence in recent years because the FBI had taken much of the blood-covered interior out of the vehicle, and it is “basically a shell of what it once was,” Roberts said.
Roberts has been the only state police officer to work on the case since 2013, he said. He conducts annual reports on each cold case and completed one on the Luna case in December 2019.
Craig Staudenmaier, an attorney for LNP Media Group, requested the judge consider redacting parts of the records to protect parts of it that may jeopardize the investigation but also allow the public access. Staudenmaier also requested Ashworth set a rolling timeline to revisit whether the documents should remain sealed.
Prosecutor Todd Brown said the district attorney’s office’s opinion that the records should remain closed until the case is closed will not change.
“A week from now, a year from now, two years from now … the commonwealth’s position is going to be the same as it is today,” Brown said.
Brown also opposed the possibility that the records be redacted.
“Nobody knows what fact it could be that ends up springing this case,” Brown added.
Ashworth did not issue a ruling but asked both parties to submit their arguments to the court to inform his decision.