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John Wagner Found Guilty Of Killing Hopkins Researcher

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BALTIMORE (WJZ)– A jury has found John Wagner guilty of first-degree felony murder in the stabbing death of Johns Hopkins researcher Stephen Pitcairn.  It only took them a few hours to reach the verdict.

Andrea Fujii has more.

Wagner now faces the possibility of life in prison for one of the most notorious murders in Baltimore last year.

Wagner emerged from the courthouse convicted of first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Johns Hopkins researcher Stephen Pitcairn after jurors deliberated less than three hours.  That jury was convinced Wagner wielded the knife but agreed the murder was not premeditated.

“We did not believe that he intended to kill Mr. Stephen Pitcairn.  No, we did not,” said the jury foreman.

Pitcairn was on the phone with his mother last July while walking down St. Paul Street when he was robbed and stabbed in the heart by Wagner and his girlfriend, Lavelva Merritt.  As part of a plea deal to avoid murder charges, Merritt took the stand to testify against Wagner, telling jurors Wagner said, “I think I stabbed him twice.  I think I hurt this white boy pretty bad.”

“It was important for the jury to hear from a witness who was actually there and participated in the offense,” said City State’s Attorney Gregg Bernstein.

Bernstein campaigned on getting more convictions for repeat violent offenders like Wagner, who police say was caught on camera assaulting another man just weeks before Pitcairn’s murder. 

Bernstein offered his sympathies to the Pitcairn family.

“And I want to thank them for their cooperation and their help in prosecuting Mr. Wagner who in many ways is the poster child for the type of offenders my office is committed to prosecuting,” Bernstein said.

Pitcairn’s family was in the courtroom, very emotional during the reading of the verdict, but they declined to speak with reporters about the case.

Defense attorneys declined to comment on the case but promised an appeal.

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