Tribune-Courier News Editor
CADIZ – The retrial of George Luna began Monday afternoon with the prosecution’s opening arguments and testimony of Janice Level, sister of Deborah Hendrickson, the victim.
Luna, convicted in 2008 to life in prison for the murder of Debra Hendrickson, was granted a retrial in 2010 by the Kentucky Supreme Court. The trial moved to Trigg County after an impartial jury was unable to be seated in Marshall County.
Circuit Judge Dennis Foust said the court used Monday morning to sort through over 70 potential jurors before empaneling a jury around 12:35 p.m. and breaking for lunch. The court returned to session for opening arguments at 2 p.m.
“The main thing was we didn’t want to find jurors with undue exposure to the media,” Foust said. “I’m optimistic we will be done with the trial in seven days.”
Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Prather is trying the case for the Commonwealth. Foust said this is due to an attorney in the office of Marshall Commonwealth Attorney Mark Blankenship having worked with Luna in the past.
Last week, Luna announced he would no longer be representing himself as co-counsel in the trial. He is represented by public defenders Nathan Goodrich and James Burkeen.
Goodrich declined to comment on the case as it has not been heard in court.
The family of Hendrickson also declined to comment.
In opening remarks, Prather said Hendrickson’s family had hopes she was not at home when they found her trailer on fire. He said her truck, a sentimental possession owned by her late husband Jerry Hendrickson , was not at home. The truck was later found traveling north at a high rate of speed in Illinois. The driver was Luna.
“Their hopes fell when another truck arrived, with the word ‘Coroner’ on the side,” Prather said. “The family was asked to identify some jewelry, that’s how bad the fire was.”
Prather said the Commonwealth believes Hendrickson was helping Luna as a friend when he asked her to get involved in an insurance scam and reporting another car as falsely stolen. At first she complied with his request, but withdrew from the scam and reported the stolen car complaint as bogus. Prather said Luna allegedly threatened and assaulted Hendrickson, and believed he could prove he ultimately killed her.
Level recalled her sister as a kind person as Prather introduced a picture of Hendrickson.
“She was the fifth child of seven,” Level said. “She was a wonderful person. Her heart was so big it was unreal. She would do anything to help everyone out.”