Nearly two years have passed since a Fair Lakes man was found murdered in his home. But last week in Fairfax County Circuit Court, a Florida man pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in connection with that crime.
THE VICTIM was Richard Gluckstern, 46, of the 12100 block of Elm Forest Way, near the county Government Center. The man taking responsibility for his death is Jason Edward Lee, 26, of Ocala, Fla.
Actually, authorities here didn't find out about the homicide until a few days after it happened. Unable to reach her son, Gluckstern's mother contacted Fairfax County police, June 14, 2005, to check on her son's welfare.
But when police went to his apartment, they found him dead of an apparent asphyxiation and believed he'd been murdered some time on June 11. There was no evidence of a break-in or forced entry, and police investigated the possibility that Lee and Gluckstern knew each other.
Gluckstern worked for Freddie Mac, and Del Ward — a close friend and co-worker of his — said police told him Gluckstern and Lee had met at a county fair. Ward said that, in the weeks before his death, Gluckstern had been "trying to be less introverted and more involved" with others and might have become friends with Lee against his better judgment.
CO-WORKERS described Gluckstern as friendly, amiable and helpful, with a quick wit and a penchant for puns. He worked at the computer help desk and was well-liked at Freddie Mac, so his murder came as a shock to people there.
On June 13, 2005, sheriff's deputies in Marion County, Fla., arrested Lee for violating his probation on burglary and grand-theft convictions. And when they did so, they found personal items belonging to Gluckstern in Lee's possession. Deputies then notified Fairfax County police and ultimately turned over the case to authorities here.
A week later, on June 20, 2005, a Fairfax County grand jury indicted Lee on one count of first-degree murder, two counts of grand larceny and one count of credit-card theft. The Florida man was charged with swiping Gluckstern's Compaq laptop computer — registered to Freddie Mac, his Visa credit card and his 1994 Honda.
After that, however, the wheels in this case all but ground to a halt while Lee answered to the Florida justice system. On Jan. 4, 2006, Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Robert Horan explained, "He's serving time in Florida for a probation violation. And as soon as his time is over, we'll bring him up here."
FINALLY, in June 2006, Lee was extradited here from Florida. He was initially slated for an Oct. 16, 2006 jury trial, but it was continued until May 7 of this year.
Then, in a surprise move, he pleaded guilty last Tuesday, April 24, in Circuit Court. At that time, all but the murder charge against him was dropped — and that was amended to the lesser offense of second-degree murder.
Before accepting his plea, Judge Charles Maxfield made sure Lee understood that, by pleading guilty, he gave up his right to a trial where he could confront any witnesses against him. He also made certain that Lee was entering his plea freely and voluntarily and because he was, in fact, guilty of the crime of which he's accused.
Maxfield set Lee's sentencing for June 22. The prosecutor, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Ian Rodway, said second-degree murder is punishable by anywhere from five to 40 years in prison. And in this case, he added, the attorneys involved have made "no agreement on [Lee's] sentence."
Reporter Lea Mae Rice contributed to this story.