- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 15, 2003

A federal court jury in Alexandria decided yesterday to spare the life of former Navy intelligence officer Jay Lentz, who was convicted last week of kidnapping resulting in the death of his ex-wife.

After barely an hour of deliberations, the panel of eight women and four men signed a form stating that they could not make a unanimous recommendation on the death penalty. The document also indicated that all jurors had agreed that Lentz’s execution could cause his daughter irreparable harm.

Instead of going to death row, Lentz will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole. The decision came a day before his 44th birthday.

“We’re pleased with the sentence, and we’re glad after seven years, justice has been done,” said Charles Butt, the older brother of Doris Lentz, the victim.

Lentz stood silently as the jury’s recommendation was read. His 12-year-old daughter, Julia, listened as she sat surrounded by relatives. She had testified Monday to plead for her father’s life.

One of Lentz’s attorneys, Frank Salvato, hinted at an appeal.

“We will continue to fight for Mr. Lentz both in this court and any other court to ensure this sentence is overturned,” Mr. Salvato said.

Mrs. Lentz, 31, vanished April 23, 1996. Prosecutors contend that her ex-husband lured her from her Arlington home to his Fort Washington residence on the pretext of picking up Julia, then 4. The girl actually had been visiting her grandparents in Indiana that day.

Mrs. Lentz’s body was not found, although her bloodstained car turned up in the District.

Lentz’s brother, Jim Lentz, said his family is saddened by the loss of Mrs. Lentz and feels her family’s pain, but maintains that his brother was not responsible for her death.

“We believe in his innocence and will continue to fight for his freedom,” he said.

In closing arguments of the penalty phase, Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Mellin called Lentz a “manipulative predator” who used the couple’s daughter as a pawn.

Federal public defender Judy Clarke urged the jury to find some good in Lentz, citing his military service and his role in raising Julia since her mother vanished. Miss Clarke urged jurors to consider Julia’s life while making their decision.

Lentz was convicted after an unusual break in deliberations. Jurors worked 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’s sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 11.

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