- The Washington Times - Monday, July 14, 2003

The daughter of a former Navy intelligence officer — convicted in her mother’s death — took the stand yesterday to urge jurors to spare her father’s life.

“I love my dad. He means everything to me. He is my world,” Julia Lentz, 12, told the jury that must decide between the death penalty and life in prison without parole for Jay Lentz. The penalty phase was to resume today.

Julia did not attend the trial in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, though she was in the courtroom when the guilty verdict was read. The seventh-grader, who lives with her paternal grandparents in Bloomington, Ind., returned yesterday to testify for the defense. She said she visits her father in prison, writes to him, and talks to him on the phone.

Julia said she had little memory of her mother beyond what she looked like and some activities they shared, including baking cookies.

Lentz, 43, was convicted of kidnapping resulting in the death of his ex-wife, Doris Lentz, 31. She was last seen April 23, 1996, when federal prosecutors say her ex-husband lured her from her home in Arlington to his home in Fort Washington on the pretext of picking up Julia, then 4.

During the trial, an airline employee testified that travel records showed that the girl was not due to return from relatives in Indiana for four more days. A few days after she disappeared, Mrs. Lentz’s bloodstained Toyota was discovered in the District. Her body has not been found.

Defense attorney Judy Clarke earned a scolding from the judge when she asked Julia whether she had anything to tell her father. The girl looked straight at Lentz and said, “I love you, Daddy.” Another defense attorney said the judge had warned in a closed-door session not to let witnesses directly address Lentz.

Two of Mrs. Lentz’s siblings testified — one for each side. Charles Butt took the stand for prosecutors, recalling how his sister “looked for the silver lining.” However, her sister, Carol Tsagarakis, testified for the defense — a decision over which, she said, she had agonized.

“I’m here today because of Julia,” Mrs. Tsagarakis said. “I’d rather she didn’t have any more loss.”

Lentz’s sister, brother, mother and stepfather also testified for him, as did two former military bosses. A friend of Mrs. Lentz also took the stand for the prosecution.

Lentz was convicted after an unusual break in deliberations. Jurors deliberated four days before telling U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee they were deadlocked. He urged them to continue, and they returned the next day, June 24, but were still unable to decide. Judge Lee was scheduled to begin vacation June 25, and agreed to let the panel resume deliberations July 7. When they did, jurors convicted Lentz in less than an hour.

Lentz was arrested in Greenfield, Ind., where he had moved after his wife’s disappearance. The prosecution’s case rested largely on circumstantial evidence. During the trial, jurors heard angry exchanges between the couple in phone calls Mrs. Lentz had taped. Some friends and associates also testified that she was terrified of her ex-husband.

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