- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 30, 2001

Attorney General John Ashcroft yesterday authorized prosecutors in Virginia to seek the death penalty for Jay Edward Lentz, a former Naval intelligence officer charged with kidnapping and killing his ex-wife five years ago.
Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia received permission from the Justice Department in a letter issued yesterday afternoon, a prosecutor said.
"The attorney general has authorized us to seek the death penalty," said Steven Mellin, the assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting the case.
Mr. Lentz, a former Maryland resident, faces charges of kidnapping, kidnapping resulting in death, and interstate domestic violence resulting in death. His ex-wife, Doris Faye Lentz, disappeared on the evening of April 23, 1996. Her body has never been found.
Prosecutors and Mr. Lentz's defense attorneys will set a trial date during a status hearing tomorrow morning at 9.
Justice Department officials did not release the reasons why Mr. Ashcroft gave the go-ahead. Mr. Mellin and Kenneth Melson, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District, declined to comment further.
Defense attorney Michael Lieberman said he just received notification yesterday afternoon and could not comment because he had not yet digested the decision.
The case is being closely watched in law-enforcement circles because of the unique way prosecutors used a federal kidnapping charge.
Charging documents say Mrs. Lentz was not kidnapped in the traditional sense of being coerced — taken at gunpoint, for example. Rather, she was deceived — or inveigled, as the law puts it — into crossing state lines, thus putting the matter in the province of federal authorities, prosecutors charge in documents.
Police and Mrs. Lentz's friends and relatives immediately suspected Mr. Lentz after she vanished because of their long, bitter divorce and custody battles. Mrs. Lentz had been granted primary custody of their daughter, Julia, and Mr. Lentz's paycheck had been garnished just before Mrs. Lentz's disappearing.
About a week later, her car — with the seats covered in blood — was found in Southeast.
Arlington County police, who were investigating the matter as a missing-person case, were frustrated with Mr. Lentz's lack of cooperation, including his refusal to let them search his Fort Washington home.
He soon moved to Indiana with his daughter. He was indicted in May, and a task force of Arlington police, FBI agents and local police in Indiana arrested him in his home outside Indianapolis.


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