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DNA admissibility questioned

August 08, 2002|by KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

kimy@herald-mail.com

A Washington County judge may decide Friday if DNA evidence from the 1994 stabbing deaths of a Hagerstown couple is reliable and will be accepted at the murder retrial of Russell Wayne Wagner.

A hearing was held Wednesday on a defense motion that the DNA evidence be excluded when Wagner, 49, is tried on two counts of first-degree murder.

Wagner is charged in the Feb. 14, 1994, stabbing deaths of Daniel Davis, 84, and Wilda Davis, 80, in their home at 109 W. Wilson Blvd.

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The Davis' bodies were found the next day tied to chairs with pillowcases covering their heads.

DNA experts from the FBI testified Wednesday that a hair found on a glove near the home of Daniel and Wilda Davis matched Wagner's DNA.

Defense DNA expert Jeffrey Boore questioned the FBI lab's testing methods and conclusion.

Arguments are set for 11 a.m. Friday. The trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 19.

When Wagner was tried six years ago, the trial was moved to Garrett County, Md. A judge declared a mistrial after a Garrett County jury failed to reach a verdict.

Authorities last year again charged Wagner with the Davis' deaths, this time based on evidence using DNA testing methods not available at the time of the original trial.

Wagner has been held in the Washington County Detention Center without bond since the case was reopened through a grand jury indictment.

In January 2001, police and prosecutors said hair and blood samples taken from a glove found three blocks from the crime scene in 1994 was resubmitted to the FBI laboratory and the Bode Technology Group in Springfield, Va.

Advances in DNA testing methods since 1994 resulted in a match of the recovered hair with the DNA in a blood sample taken from Wagner, according to court records, which also noted that blood found on the glove matched a sample from Daniel Davis.

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