Date of Crime


Virgina Jay Lentz Apr 23, 1996

Thirty-one-year-old Doris Faye Lentz disappeared on Apri1 23, 1996 after telling a friend she was driving from her Arlington, VA home to pick up her 4-year-old daughter, Julia, at her ex-husband's home in Fort Washington, MD.  Her ex-husband, Jay E. Lentz was a naval intelligence officer.  Doris was once an aide to Senator James Sasser of Tennessee.  Doris' blood spattered automobile was found a week after her disappearance in southeast Washington, DC.  Federal prosecutors suspected Jay murdered her.  They did not have sufficient evidence to bring murder charges against him as there was no body, no weapon, no eyewitnesses, and no crime scene.

Instead they charged Jay in April 2001 with kidnapping across state lines resulting in death.  Prosecutors claimed that Jay had lured Doris from her home under the assumption that she would pick up Julia.  Julia was not with Jay, but was visiting her grandparents in Indiana at the time of Doris' disappearance.  During jury deliberation, prosecutors planted inadmissible hearsay evidence in the jury room.  The jurors sent the judge a note that they were deadlocked after four days of deliberations.  However, after more days of deliberation, the jury convicted Jay in July 2003 of the kidnapping charge.  Jay faced a possible death sentence, but Julia testified that she did not want to lose her father after losing her mother.  Jay was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.

Prior to jury deliberations, the defense filed a Rule 29 motion to dismiss the charge against Lentz due to lack of evidence.  The defense argued that the charge of kidnapping required that the defendant both "lured" his victim and "held" her against her will.  The defense maintained there was no proof Lentz held his ex-wife against her will even if he killed her.  The judge didn't rule on the motion, but waited until the jury verdict and sentence was rendered.

In a written opinion the judge agreed that prosecutors had failed to prove their case.  The judge ruled, "To allow this conviction ... to stand would be to allow the federal government to, in essence, secure a conviction for first-degree murder without having to support the grade of that offense with evidence."  The judge entered a verdict of acquittal.  However, on appeal in Sept. 2004, the ruling was overturned and the appeals court ordered a new trial.  In March 2006, Lentz was again convicted of kidnapping and sentenced to life without parole.  No evidence was presented that Doris was held against her will.  (Google)  [4/08]



Individual Case Summaries

Main Menu