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Witnesses say Wagner confided crime details to them

August 22, 2002|by KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

kimy@herald-mail.com

The jury in the first-degree murder trial of Russell Wayne Wagner heard from friends and a former cellmate of the defendant who testified Wednesday that Wagner told them he was in the home of Daniel and Wilda Davis on the night they were fatally stabbed.

Dawn Albright testified that she had a conversation with Wagner in 2001 about the slayings of Daniel Davis, 84, and Wilda Davis, 80.

The Davises were stabbed to death in their 109 W. Wilson Blvd. home on Feb. 14, 1994. Their bodies were found the following day.

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Albright said she told police in 2001 that Wagner, 50, told her another man stabbed the couple while Wagner was upstairs looking for money.

Under questioning by defense attorney Stephen Harris, Albright said she felt pressured by police when she made those statements.

Since then, Albright said, she's had time to reflect on the conversation and now thinks she misunderstood Wagner. She said she believes Wagner was recounting what others were saying about him, not telling him what had happened.

Albright's husband Wayne Albright testified that Wagner lived with him and his wife briefly and never had much money.

He said he remembered a conversation they had in 1994 in which Wagner said his landlord, Ted Monger Sr., was mad at him and wanted Wagner and another man to do something for him.

Monger was Daniel and Wilda Davis' son-in-law.

Wagner wouldn't say what Monger wanted him to do, Wayne Albright said.

Wayne Albright identified a hunting knife with a 5-inch blade as looking like the one he had seen in Wagner's apartment at 610 Chestnut St. prior to the slayings.

On Tuesday an assistant state medical examiner identified the same knife as being the one used to kill Daniel and Wilda Davis. The knife was found lying in the snow near the Davises home.

Wagner didn't have a car and he would take him to work and on errands, Wayne Albright said. He testified that on Feb. 14, 1994, he dropped Wagner off at the Big Lots store in the South End Shopping Center to buy gloves for work.

When defense attorney Susan Puhula showed him a pair of yellow leather gloves matching a bloody pair found on a street near the Davises home, Albright said Wagner wouldn't have used that type for work because it was cold outside.

Another friend of Wagner's testified she went drinking with Wagner and another woman at about 8:45 p.m. in downtown Hagerstown on the night the Davises died.

Robert Keedy testified that he struck up a friendship with Wagner after meeting him at a Hagerstown bar in 1997.

He didn't realize at first that Wagner was the man who had been tried on two counts of first-degree murder in connection with the Davises deaths, he said.

That 1996 trial, held in Garrett County because of pretrial publicity, ended in a hung jury. Wagner was re-indicted on the same charges in 2001. Prosecutors said the new indictments came as a result of new applications of DNA on evidence collected by Hagerstown City Police after the slayings.

Keedy said he was curious about the killings so he asked Wagner for some details.

Wagner told him that another man put pillowcases over the Davises heads, bound them with duct tape and stabbed them to death, Keedy testified. At the time of the killings, Wagner said he was upstairs ransacking the bedrooms, Keedy said.

Keedy, who is serving time on a marijuana distribution charge, said he was hoping for leniency in exchange for his testimony but nothing was promised.

Keedy said Assistant Washington County State's Attorney Joseph Michael told him Wednesday before he took the stand that he would write a letter on his behalf.

Also taking the stand was Michael A. Crouse, who shared a cell at the Washington County Detention Center with Wagner in 1997 when Wagner was arrested on a charge of driving a vehicle with stolen tags.

Crouse testified that Wagner told him that he was at the home on West Wilson Boulevard when the Davises were tied up and stabbed to death. He didn't say whether he went alone, Crouse said.

Puhula attacked Crouse's credibility, citing his list of criminal convictions and pending court cases.

Puhula also pointed out inconsistencies in Crouse's testimony.

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