Search uncovers Luna's penknife
Federal prosecutor, 38, was likely stabbed with it, investigators believe
Full coverage of Luna murder
By Gail Gibson
Originally published February 13, 2004
Authorities probing the mysterious death of Baltimore federal prosecutor
Jonathan P. Luna now
think the young lawyer likely suffered from stab wounds inflicted with
his own pocketknife and are re-examining financial records that may shed
more light on the final months of Luna's life.
In a recent recanvassing of the rural Pennsylvania field where Luna's body
was found, investigators found a penknife that they believe caused
his wounds, according to two federal law enforcement sources. They
also said that investigators believe the pocketknife is the one that Luna regularly
Luna was stabbed
36 times and found Dec. 4 facedown in a shallow creek in rural Lancaster
County, Pa., where authorities said he drowned. His Honda Accord
was nearby, its engine running.
It was not known yesterday whether authorities found fingerprints
or blood on the knife, or why the weapon was not discovered during
an extensive search of the scene on the day Luna was
The discovery of the knife comes as investigators also have sought
help analyzing medical and psychological evidence from a well-regarded
military forensics unit as they struggle with a new, competing theory
about one of the most basic questions in the case: whether Luna was
the victim of a homicide or suicide.
In FBI reports over the past month, authorities have raised the
possibility that Luna,
38, could have killed himself, according to three law enforcement
sources who spoke with The Sun on condition of anonymity. The controversial
theory has met sharp skepticism internally, however, by a number
of investigators who maintain that the evidence points to homicide.
Officials with the FBI's Baltimore field office, which has headed
the investigation, have declined to comment on any of the theories
that authorities are pursuing to solve the mystery of Luna's death.
"All I can say is the investigation continues," said Special Agent
Barry Maddox, a spokesman for the office.
Maryland U.S. Attorney Thomas M. DiBiagio, has not commented on the
investigation since the night that it began, when he said preliminary
evidence suggested Luna had
been murdered. Vickie E. LeDuc, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor's
office, also declined to comment, as has Luna's family.
The energetic and well-liked young prosecutor, who was married and
had two young sons, was due in federal court in downtown Baltimore
to conclude a drug case on the day that he was found dead. But investigators
found no evidence that his death was related to his work, and instead
have closely combed Luna's personal
life for clues.
In recent days, investigators have again turned their attention
to the unsolved disappearance of about $36,000 introduced as evidence
in a bank robbery trial that Luna prosecuted
in September 2002. Authorities have not linked the missing cash to Luna or
to his death, but investigators now are examining a loan application
that Luna filled
out online about the time of the trial.
The loan application was for about $30,000, and it was canceled
not long after the period when the evidence money was discovered
missing, according to a federal law enforcement source. Authorities
have determined that at the time of his death, Luna had
credit card debts of about $25,000 -- and that he had as many as
16 credit card accounts, some that he held without his wife's knowledge.
In addition to financial troubles, Luna also
had felt that he was on the outs with his supervisors in the U.S.
attorney's office, where he had worked for four years. Several legal
sources have said that Luna was
concerned he might have to change jobs. DiBiagio has rejected any
suggestion that Luna was
at risk of being fired.
The highly sensitive question of whether Luna could
have killed himself is at the center of a debate among investigators
about the direction of the case, as it stretches into a third month
with no arrests. To better develop the theory, investigators have
asked the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology to examine medical
and psychological evidence in the case.
A spokesman for the institute referred all questions about the Luna case
to the Baltimore FBI office.
Autopsy findings by the medical examiner in Lancaster County, Pa.,
have not been made public, and forensic pathologist Dr. Wayne K.
Ross, who performed the autopsy, has refused to discuss the case.
However, the county's then-coroner, Dr. Barry Walp, said in the first
days of the investigation that Luna had
suffered a number of shallow "prick" marks on his chest and neck
in addition to several deeper, more serious stab wounds.
While rare, there are some high-profile instances of suicides
by stabbing, cases frequently marked by so-called "hesitation wounds" that
barely penetrate the skin. In 1999, Army officials ruled that a
National Guard captain found dead at a Kentucky base with 26 stab
wounds to the neck and chest was a suicide, a finding that was
disputed by the soldier's family.
More recently, the stabbing death in December of Oscar-nominated
singer-songwriter Elliott Smith -- initially thought to be a suicide
-- remains an open question after the Los Angeles coroner's office
said it could not determine whether stab wounds to Smith's chest
were most likely inflicted by him or by someone else.
If authorities conclude that Luna's death
was a suicide, the finding could open investigators to allegations
that they simply failed to solve the high-profile case.
Already, the case has been marked by competing jurisdictional issues
between authorities in Pennsylvania and Maryland. In addition, officials
in Washington are investigating whether some supervisors in the FBI's
Baltimore office overreached in questioning a female agent in connection
with the Luna case,
a law enforcement source has told The Sun.
The Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility has
opened an investigation into whether supervisors improperly questioned
an agent who had worked on several cases with Luna about
her personal life and told her to turn over her computer for inspection,
the source said.
The internal investigation was first reported Wednesday evening
by CBS News.
A federal law enforcement official said yesterday that there has
been no finding in the internal probe and emphasized that investigators
never considered the agent a suspect in Luna's death
-- "nor have they developed any suspect," the source said.
In Luna's case,
sources have described evidence that appears to run counter to a
suicide theory. Officials have said that some of Luna's wounds
appear to be defensive and have said that authorities found evidence
of a second blood type in Luna's Honda
Accord, possibly from an attacker.
Investigators also found blood on the Pennsylvania Turnpike toll
ticket that they believed was turned in in rural Ephrata, Pa., when Luna's car
exited the highway on the night he was killed. The ticket suggested
to investigators the possibility that someone other than Luna was
driving the car when it entered and left the Pennsylvania Turnpike
because Luna's car
had an EZ Pass card, something a driver unfamiliar with the vehicle
might not have known.
In the two months since Luna's death,
agents also have pored over Luna's financial
records, computer files, phone logs and personal contacts in his
Palm Pilot, but none of the information has led authorities to a