U.S. Army to review Wagner's Arlington placement

August 05, 2005|by PEPPER BALLARD


U.S. Army leadership is reviewing the placement of an urn last week at Arlington National Cemetery holding the cremated remains of a man they learned Wednesday killed a Hagerstown couple in 1994, Lori Calvillo, cemetery public affairs officer, said Thursday.

Cremated remains of Russell Wayne Wagner, 52, who was an Army Private 1st Class from 1969 to 1972, were placed with standard military honors July 27 at an Arlington National Cemetery columbarium. He died Feb. 2 at the Maryland House of Correction Annex in Jessup, Md., while serving two life sentences for the Valentine's Day 1994 murders of Daniel Davis, 84, and Wilda Davis, 80, at their West Wilson Boulevard home in Hagerstown.

The Davises' bodies were found stabbed repeatedly on Feb. 15. Their hands and feet were bound with black shoelaces and pillowcases were placed over their heads, according to published reports.


Calvillo was told by The Herald-Mail Wednesday of Wagner's conviction and expressed shock. She said felony convictions would "usually prevent" someone from having an Arlington service.

Calvillo said she could find no paperwork in his file reflecting his criminal background.

The Davises' family is fighting to have Wagner's ashes removed from the columbarium, which is a structure for cremated remains.

Virginia Davis, who is the daughter of the victims, said Thursday that her brother and daughter will be meeting with Army officials to discuss their outrage over his placement there.

"This has really got our family all stirred up," said Virginia Davis, 70. "It's really heartbreaking to know he's there with people who fought for this country."

She said her family has been told "that his remains can be taken out of that vault."

Calvillo said that Wagner's ashes were still at the columbarium Thursday.

"He don't need to be there as a hero," Virginia Davis said. "He killed my mother and daddy and tied their hands behind their back."

Calvillo said Thursday that although the Army has not received paperwork confirming Wagner's 2002 Washington County Circuit Court conviction for the Davises' murders, Army leadership has taken Wagner's case under review to determine that "everything was done."

Wagner met the requirements for the columbarium service because he was discharged honorably from the military, she said. Requirements to have a ground burial at the cemetery are more stringent.

His service, which was held at 10 a.m., included a bugler who played taps, a firing party that gave a three-shot salute and the traditional folding and unfolding of the American flag. She said a soldier, accompanied by a group of other soldiers, carried Wagner's urn to the columbarium.

Criminal background checks on those who are requested to be placed at Arlington are "not something we do," she said. The cemetery was provided with Wagner's discharge papers, which she said are the only papers required for the columbarium service.

The service was authorized June 29 at the request of Wagner's sister, Karen Anderson, Calvillo said Wednesday.

Messages left for Anderson were not returned by late Thursday.

To Calvillo's knowledge, no other convicted killers have had services at the cemetery, she said Thursday.

In 1996, a Garrett County jury heard Wagner's case, but returned hung. In 2002, the case was heard in Washington County, but the jury in that trial returned with guilty verdicts for two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of felony murder and burglary, according to published reports.

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals in January upheld Wagner's 2002 conviction, saying Circuit Judge Frederick C. Wright III, who sentenced Wagner to two consecutive life sentences for the Davises' murders, did not abuse his discretion in allowing mitochondrial DNA evidence to be used against Wagner, The Herald-Mail has reported.

In the 2002 trial, now-Washington County Deputy State's Attorney Joseph Michael, in his argument to the jury, suggested that Wagner and at least one other person entered the Davis home and stabbed the couple to death so that the wife of Ted Monger, the couple's son-in-law, would inherit $50,000, according to published reports.

Monger has not been charged in connection with their murders, Michael said Thursday. The investigation into their deaths remains under investigation, he said.

Three prosecution witnesses testified in the 2002 trial that Wagner said he was at the Davis home when the murder was committed. A hair that a DNA expert for the FBI said possibly was Wagner's was found on a glove with Daniel Davis' blood on it.

Michael suggested that Wagner and possibly another man waited outside the Davis home on Feb. 14, 1994, while Ted Monger knocked on the door. Wilda Davis was expecting Monger to stop in to pick up potato salad she had made for her daughter, Michael had said.

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