CADIZ – A Trigg County jury has sentenced George Luna to life without parole for the murder of Debra Hendrickson, plus 20 years for arson.
Luna was found guilty of both charges in the September 2007 murder on Friday in a trial that lasted a week.
This is the second time Circuit Court Judge Dennis Foust has heard the case. The first guilty verdict in 2008 was overturned due to a technicality.
Foust immediately upheld the jury’s recommendation and sentenced Luna. He said that in his 23 years on the bench this is the first time he has sentenced someone to life without the possibility of parole.
Luna took the stand in his own defense last week. During his testimony Luna said he got into an altercation with Hendrickson during an argument involving her plan to burn down her mobile home to collect insurance money.
He also said Hendrickson had feelings for him which he did not return, stating, “She was wanting something I couldn’t give her. Friendship was what I could give her, not this relationship.”
Luna said he and Hendrickson had been drinking the night of the fire and that Hendrickson started a fight with him after he abandoned the plan to set fire to her home.
He said Hendrickson stabbed him with a paring knife and fought with him, which accounted for the blood spatter on his clothing.
Luna sobbed on the stand as he said he checked Hendrickson’s pulse several times after hitting her with a whiskey bottle and delivering a fatal blow during the course of the fight.
Prosecutors, however, told a different story, saying Luna was the one with the plan to burn down the mobile home. They also said he was abusive to Hendrickson, using testimony from her friends and family.
Special Commonwealth Attorney Jeff Prather cross examined Luna, pointing out that he had five years to review state’s evidence since the murder and fire took place.