BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A Johns Hopkins researcher was killed while on the phone with his mother.  Now one of the accused could get reduced time in prison.

Mike Hellgren explains the legal move that has many upset.

The state’s attorney’s decision to drop murder charges against Lavelva Merritt in exchange for her testimony against her co-defendant is sparking outrage in Charles Village.  Police say Merritt and her partner John Wagner plotted to rob and attack Johns Hopkins researcher Stephen Pitcairn as he walked down Saint Paul Street last July.

“She should be held accountable because she was with him when it all happened,” said Laura Moore, who works nearby.

“I thought it was a little ridiculous.  They were in it together so they should get the same sentence, it seems like,” said neighbor Alex Pirtle.

They say Wagner stabbed him in the heart and Merritt punched him in the face and stole his iPhone, leaving him in the gutter. 

Merritt will get 30 years in the deal, half of it suspended.  She’ll face tough questions on the stand.

“You try to make me look like this liar who will sell out.  Isn’t it true you’re going against your former lover just to save your neck?” said law professor Byron Warnken.

The murder stunned the community.  Particularly troubling was Wagner’s history of falling through the cracks of the criminal justice system.  Police say he was caught on tape robbing someone just weeks before the killing and violated probation four times but spent no time behind bars.

Community leaders like Frank Richardson want to make sure no one escapes justice this time.

“I thought that they would be in it together.  I was told both were responsible for the outcome, for the death,” Richardson said.  “Really, we just can’t let it fall through.”

Wagner still faces life in prison.

Merritt gave a videotaped statement detailing her involvement in the crime.

Comments (27)


    1. Brent Hutchinson says:

      indeed. it’s a joke to let her walk.

  2. T says:

    Well no, she’s not going to “walk” as the facts state – she’ll likely get a 30 yr sentence with 15 yrs suspending, meaning 15 yrs in jail. Plus time added for her parole violation.

    I do feel that it’s not enough – she was a willing participant – but this was a deal so that the prosecution can put the hammer down on Wagner.

  3. karen says:

    This is a horrible story. I hesitated on reading but I did. What idiots? They could have learned something from a SMART person. She needs to do the time for the crime. Snitching is not acceptable because she should not have done it. Dumb!

  4. Wayne says:

    It is this sort of justice that has crime in Baltimore on the rise and people afraid to come to the city and spend money which hurts the city economy. Baltimore needs zero tolerance the way that New York City had that helped to clean up a good portion of crime in that city.

    1. Brent Hutchinson says:

      indeed. you’re absolutely right. I think the zero tolerance rule is GREAT! I moved from Baltimore to NYC and you’re right. When I first got here I asked “Isn’t NY supposed to be more dangerous?” and I was informed about the zero tolerance policies. What is Baltimore waiting for man? How many ppl have to savagely die before someone wakes the f up?

  5. josye says:


    1. Brent Hutchinson says:

      good point.

  6. didi says:

    I hate this it stinks they both should be kept off the streets.

  7. Johnny Angel says:

    Vigilante Justice is True Justice!!

    1. Brent Hutchinson says:

      oh indeed. but who’s going to give him justice? I was thinking maybe that when she goes into prison she might get shanked by another hood rat that is a part of some gang and kills her for the guy…then hopefully the guy gets killed too.

    2. Brent Hutchinson says:

      oh indeed. but who’s going to give him justice? I was thinking maybe that when she goes into prison she might get shanked by another hood rat that is a part of some gang and kills her for the guy…then hopefully the guy gets killed too.

  8. pigeon says:

    The agreement is just so wrong!! Bet it would be a horse of a different color had the victim been a family member of the State’s Attorney’s family. Once again the citizenship of not only Baltimore but the entire State of Maryland gets a slap in the face. Just oh so wrong!!!!!!!! Beside that, it isn’t right/proper either.
    They say what goes around comes around. Wonder who in her family is “next” and let’s see who walks! Disgraceful. This REALLY ticks me off!!!!!!!!!!!!! Go ahead, ask me how I really feel!

    1. Ohmyheaven says:

      Pigeon, not a fair statement. Rich or poor, we all have the same issues. Millionaires have been known to commit suicide.

      God Bless America and heaven please help all of those in need. Except if they are in need of drugs &/or alcohol.

      God bless the children, because they are our future. Please help fix the issue.

      My goal is a better future.

      Bring back the Roman Coliseum days where they throw the criminal into a pit of lions.

      I guarantee the crime rate would go down & the Coliseum prices will go up.

  9. eastside Nae Nae says:

    I went to school wit her nd if she had something to do wit it I think she should get the same thing he getting! I known Lee Lee all my high school life nd to say I can’t put it out there but they need to keep her crazy tale

    1. Brent Hutchinson says:

      you mean kill her crazy tale? Thanks for your input, Nae Nae.

    2. southside Bee says:

      there’s no record saying she has children…where is this daughter ur talking about.

  10. Ohmyheaven says:

    Oh my heaven, am I going to be attacked for my iPhone when I come to visit Maryland? I will make sure that I have my butt kicking boots on.

    1. Ohmyheaven says:

      Must I have to register and carry my concealed weapon in order to protect myself when I visit??

  11. eastside Nae Nae says:

    Sooooo now she SNICHED on her husband when she gets out she betta watch her back cuz BALTIMORE HATE A RAT! Lee Lee I thought yu would have grown up since we got out of school but it seems as tho yu got dumb nd no mind of ya own. That’s crazy yu lost ya son nd now yu nd this man took somebody son. What would ya daughter think of yu! IJS Lee Lee I never thought YOU would do something like this for a IPHONE.

  12. Ohmyheaven says:

    yep yep, I can not comprehend. Heaven help us all.

  13. Ohmyheaven says:

    I want to state that this had to be premeditated. They had to be stalking him to think that they would get something more then just an iPhone.

  14. Kimberly Blackwell says:


  15. Daisy says:

    They already seem to have enough evidence against him, why do they need her testimony? Why do the courts keep making deals with criminals? Who starts speaking for the victims?

  16. joyse says:

    Another nice neighborhood gone to hell!!

  17. Doug says:

    In my Kingdom,both would have already been executed.
    In a land of pure justice.

  18. what says:

    I dont know the background of this awful crime at all. But I am just wondering if they had enough information to put either one away if someone didn’t start talking. I wondering if the state (which I disagree with MD State in every way) but maybe they had to give her a deal in order to get either one put behind bars. I dont know – like I said I dont know if they were caught red handed or not but just taking a guess, trying to make some sense in what the state is doing.

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