PHOENIX, AZ (June 30, 2011) – Justin Wade Lunsford (D.O.B. 11/30/81) will spend the next 23 years in the Arizona Department of Corrections for brutally murdering Mary Polgar in 2008 and setting her residence and vehicle on fire in an attempt to destroy the evidence. He was sentenced today by Judge Janet E. Barton after pleading no contest to Second Degree Murder and one count of Arson of an Occupied Structure.
“This defendant’s plea has allowed us to achieve a just and expeditious result that will put him behind bars for an appropriately long time to contemplate the depravity of his crimes,” said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. “My office will not allow those who take an innocent life to escape accountability for their actions,” he added.
On July 7th, 2008, Lunsford met Mary Polgar at a bar in Cave Creek. The two left the bar later that evening and went to the area of Central Avenue and Bell Road to purchase drugs. After buying the drugs, they stopped to get beer at a gas station and then proceeded to a home on Seven Palms Drive in Cave Creek where Mary was renting a room. At around 2:15pm the next day, Maricopa County Sheriff’s Deputies responded to a truck fire at the intersection of Cave Creek Road and New River Road. Investigators later determined the truck belonged to Mary and that the fire was set intentionally. A witness reported seeing a male leaving the scene in a dented green truck as Mary’s vehicle was starting to catch on fire.
At approximately 7:45pm that evening, firefighters responded to a fire at the Seven Palms Drive residence and subsequently discovered her body in the master bedroom under several layers of blankets and sheets. She had been stabbed more than fifty times over her body and her head was almost decapitated. Arson investigators determined that an accelerant was used to start the fire in the kitchen area.
Lunsford became a person of interest once County Sheriff’s investigators learned he was likely the last person to see Mary alive. He was interviewed and released, and then arrested six days after the murder. Investigators searched his residence and seized a vehicle that fit the description of the one spotted leaving the scene of the truck fire on July 8th. A gas can was found inside the vehicle.
Mary Polgar, whose maiden name was Herman, was separated from her husband at the time of her death.