updated 3/31/2006 12:21:04 AM ET 2006-03-31T05:21:04

A former naval intelligence officer was convicted Thursday of kidnapping resulting in death in connection with the 1996 disappearance of his ex-wife, whose body has never been found.

Federal prosecutors alleged that Jay Lentz lured his former wife, Doris, from her Arlington home to his home in Fort Washington, Md., under the pretext of seeing their daughter. The child was with relatives in Indiana at the time, officials said.

The woman’s blood-soaked car later turned up in Washington, D.C. Lentz was jailed after his arrest in April 2001.

Jury selection began March 8 for the trial, the second for Lentz. He was convicted on an identical charge in 2003, and the jury recommended he be sentenced to life in prison.

However, U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee set aside the verdict, saying that the prosecution had not proved its case that the death was part of an interstate kidnapping and thus a federal crime.

Lee also accused the prosecutor in the first trial, Steven Mellin, of planting in the jury room two diaries that had belonged to Doris Lentz. Some jurors said the diaries, which were inadmissible as evidence in the trial, had helped them decide to convict Lentz.

In 2004, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond ordered a new trial for Lentz. While ruling that Lee was wrong to overturn the jury’s verdict and finding no evidence supporting allegations of prosecutorial misconduct, the panel still agreed to a new trial because the jurors had seen the inadmissible diaries.

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