Murder Trial Underway For Man Accused Of Stabbing Hopkins Researcher

BALTIMORE (WJZ)—The trial is underway for the man accused of murdering a Johns Hopkins researcher. The high-profile case hinges on the testimony of his accomplice.

Mike Hellgren has been in court all day.

The murder of promising Johns Hopkins researcher Stephen Pitcairn drew widespread outrage across Maryland.

Pitcairn was stabbed to death during a robbery while walking home in Charles Village in July of last year.  He was on the phone with his mom, who heard it all unfold.

Police quickly arrested John Wagner and his girlfriend Lavelva Merritt for the crime.

Wagner faces murder charges. Merritt cut a deal with prosecutors to testify against him. According to published reports, she gave a statement that said Wagner stabbed Pitcairn and she punched him in the face after he fell to the ground.

“If the evidence shows him guilty, I want to say put away.  The last thing I want is him on the street doing this to someone else,” said neighbor Stephen Gewirtz.

Wagner previously pleaded guilty to beating someone and driving a stolen car but served no jail time.

“It’s just chilling, the description,” he said.

Prosecutors reveal surveillance images of him beating someone during a robbery attempt just three months before the murder.

“This certainly was a senseless tragedy and an example of a breakdown in the system,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

Pitcairn’s dream was to help those less fortunate. He’d only been at Hopkins for a short time.

“He said that his biggest ambition was to give back to the community through being a physician,” said Pitcairn’s sister.

Wagner faces life in prison if convicted of the crime.

Right now, they’re trying to whittle down the jury pool.  There are 100 potential jurors in the case.  The trial is expected to wrap up by the end of next week.

Merritt’s expected to serve no more than 15 years in prison for her role in the crime.

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