Investigator: Death of Prosecutor an Open Investigation; Release of Records Could be Damaging
A Pennsylvania State Police criminal investigator testified Wednesday that the 2003 death of a federal prosecutor is an open investigation reviewed yearly for DNA matches or other case leads.
Trooper First Class Chad Roberts testified at a hearing regarding the public release of Jonathan Luna’s autopsy records.
A local media group is seeking release of the records. The Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office is asking a Lancaster County Judge to keep the records sealed so not to jeopardize the investigation.
Lancaster County President Judge David Ashworth previously ordered that the records be sealed. The ongoing legal proceedings regard whether the seal will remain in place, and for how long.
President Judge Ashworth said that Wednesday’s hearing was to determine if the investigation of Luna’s death is ongoing. The president judge has already determined that any ongoing investigation into Luna’s death would be hindered by release of the records.
At the conclusion of the hearing, President Judge Ashworth asked both sides to submit briefs elaborating their positions. The president judge will then make a ruling.
First Assistant District Attorney Todd E. Brown presented Trooper Roberts’ testimony to illustrate that even a cold case – such as Luna’s – is still considered an open and ongoing investigation.
Trooper Roberts pointed to a couple recent arrests:
The murder of Christy Mirack in 1992 resulted in a conviction 27 years later, after a DNA profile was obtained via genetic genealogy analysis. Raymond Rowe pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and other charges and is serving life in prison.
A serial rapist, who attacked women in 2000 and 2001, was charged earlier this year after a fresh look at the case. The construction of a person of interest spreadsheet led to DNA matching and charges against Charles E. Musser.
Trooper Roberts said he oversees the investigations of at least 40 cold cases (more than two years old), many of which are suspicious deaths or homicides.
While Luna’s case has not had fresh leads or new evidence since 2015 – when a fingerprint match uncovered a potential lead – the case is being worked on, Trooper Roberts said.
“Lack of progress,” Roberts said, “doesn’t change the classification: it remains open.”
“There is always something that can be done to progress a case,” Roberts said.
That work includes checking databases for DNA and fingerprint matches, and scouring the FBI’s ViCAP system: a national database that pairs criminal acts based on their similarities.
The attorneys will submit briefs over the next two months. President Judge Asworth’s ruling will follow.
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