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Murderer's death probed as homicide

August 16, 2005|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN

erinc@herald-mail.com

The death of a convicted murderer whose remains were placed at Arlington National Cemetery is being investigated as a homicide, state officials said Monday.

Russell Wayne Wagner, 52, who was convicted in the 1994 slayings of a Hagerstown couple, died of heroin intoxication in February at the Maryland House of Correction Annex in Jessup.

Maryland Division of Correction Commissioner Frank Sizer Jr. said Monday the person or persons responsible for supplying Wagner with heroin could face murder charges.

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Mary Ann Saar, secretary of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said Monday the department is conducting an internal investigation to find out how Wagner obtained heroin. She did not speculate about how long the investigation would take.

Wagner obtained the drug while serving two life sentences at the prison in Jessup. He was convicted of killing Daniel and Wilda Davis in their West Wilson Boulevard home.

Sizer and Saar said drugs enter the prison system in a variety of ways. Drugs can be slipped into adhesive on envelopes and between the sticky side of a stamp and the envelope, they said. Sizer said trained police dogs search for drugs in prisoners' mail and officers open some letters. He said visitors might also bring drugs into the jail.

"It is a never-ending challenge for us," he said.

Sizer said inmates suspected of drug use are tested regularly and others are tested at random.

As the homicide investigation continues, other officials are investigating how Wagner's ashes were received at Arlington National Cemetery. Cemetery officials said Wagner was entitled because he was honorably discharged from the Army in 1972.

Veterans' remains will not be accepted at Arlington if the veteran is convicted of murder with a sentence of death or life without parole. Wagner was given a life sentence with the possibility of parole.

The Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee is investigating some of Arlington's policies.

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