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Dillon Luna, the 15-day-old son of Joseph and Christine Luna, was found dead of smoke inhalation on April 30, 1992, as his parents’ 1429 N. Federal Ave., Mason City home burned to the ground.
The fire was caused by arson, investigators said, and was ignited in the living room — the same room where the infant’s body was found — according to the fire marshal’s investigation.
Though six other people lived in the home, police found it strange that no one remembered the baby was inside until after they were all out of the house.
A Globe Gazette article dated Dec. 29, 2012 said the house was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived. They recovered the infant’s body about 30 minutes after arriving.
According to Christine Luna, she, Dillon, and daughter Angel, then 3, were sleeping in the living room when the fire broke out. Her mother, Lucille Crom, who owned the home, was asleep in a downstairs bedroom, the Gazette reported.
Joseph Luna and son, Joseph Luna III, then 2-1/2, were on the second floor, along with John Crom Jr.
The Globe Gazette said on Dec. 29:
Christine told authorities she woke up and saw flames on the side of a chair Angela was sleeping in, woke her up and then went to alert the others. When she tried to go back to the living room for Dillon, she couldn’t because it was filled with fire and smoke, she said.
Christine, Angel and Crom escaped through the back door of the house. Those upstairs jumped out second-story windows.
Authorities put out a plea for the public’s assistance in trying to identify a man seen running from the home shortly before the fire. The man, described as between 5 feet, 8 inches and 6 feet tall and wearing dark clothes, was seen running southwest across North Federal Avenue.
Mason City Police Lt. Frank Stearns, who was involved in the Luna investigation, said the department reviews cold cases looking for something to move forward with the investigation.
“Obviously we want to check and see if we have any DNA evidence that might be able to be sent down (to the state crime lab). We will also reach out and start making calls to some of the witnesses if we can still find them from back then,” Stearns said.
“This just kind of stirs it back up to the forefront and gets people thinking about it. Hopefully somebody will call in with something,” he said.
In a Globe Gazette article published June 18, 2000, Lt. Ron Vande Weerd of the Mason City Police Department said he began researching four unsolved cases in early 2000, including that of Dillon Luna. He assigned officers to work each of the four cases on a regular basis, asking them to re-interview family members, witnesses, and anyone else who had been involved with the case.
Vande Weerd also contacted retired officers who’d worked the original cases, but despite a lot of painstaking work and digging through boxes and old files, none of the four cases — which also included Andy Hatges, Elgin Strait and John Snyder, Jr. — were ever solved.
Ten years later, Lt. Stearns told the Globe Gazette the department is always looking for something they can pick up in a case file and move forward with it.
Jim Fountas, a former Mason City police officer who worked the Snyder case, retired in August 1994 after 30 years in law enforcement but said having a case go cold affects not just the victim’s family and friends, but law enforcement as well. Said Fountas in the June 27, 2010 article:
“You always feel bad. You’d like to solve everything, but that’s almost impossible.”
Dillon James Luna was born April 15, 1992, to Joseph and Christine Luna.
He died of smoke inhalation in an arson fire on April 30, 1992.
Burial was at Memorial Park Cemetery in Mason City.
In addition to his parents, Dillon Luna was survived by a sister, Angel, a brother, Joseph Luna III, and his grandparents, John and Lucille Crom.
If you have any information regarding the unsolved death of two-week-old Dillon Luna, please contact the Mason City Police Department at (641) 494-3562.