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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.

Comments (21)
  1. Fed Up With Crime says:

    Thank God. The jurors used their common sense and found Mr. Wagner guilty. A member of my family was murdered by being fatally stabbed. The perpetrator was caught, incarcerated for a month and set free because of a so-called lack of evidence according to the prosecutor. Of course, this occurred while Patricia Jessamy was the State’s Attorney. This is the reason I did not vote for Mrs. Jessamy but voted for Mr.Bernstein. Contrary to belief, I did not vote based on race but for the best person who is best suited for the job. I am an Afrtican American female who reside in East Baltimore.

    1. Danny says:

      I agree with you. Justice was served. However, look at all the whiners that can do nothing but complain. You can’t please the Baltimore bashers.

  2. sick of Balto says:

    This barbaric animal should have never been allowed to walk the street in the first place. Why was he not given the death penalty? He should rot in H*ll and the female accomplice should spend the rest of her worthless life in jail to rot. In a few years this POS will be walking the street and doing the same thing. I don’t care if it was premeditated or not, he murdered this young man in cold blood.

  3. joe says:

    why isn’t this a hate crime too?

    1. sick of balto 2 says:

      I agree Joe.. It IS a hate crime.. If it was the other way around, it would have been treated as a hate crime. However, it doesn’t matter what color the murderers or the victim were. The fact is one man killed another man= murder.. He should get the death penalty

  4. h says:

    Corrupt DEA where stealing drugs from evidence vaults and reselling them to cover extensive credit card debt.

    1. Danny says:

      What the F does that have to do with this story?

  5. MD DAD says:

    Life in prison. So how much time will he actually serve in the pen under Maryland’s legal definition of “life in prison”? About 10 years? He should never walk the streets before the day he dies.
    Also FED UP WITH CRIME. I am very sadden to read that your family never got the justice it deserved after your family member was murdered. However, your vote against Jessamy is a testiment that you did not let your family member didn’t die in vain.

  6. Ted says:

    Hate crimes are hate crimes no matter the color. Ifin I where a judge-Life without parol.

  7. Fed Up With Crime says:

    This case should have been prosecuted as a hate crime. The suspect stated that he “hurt the WHITE BOY really bad.” CRIME IS CRIME NO MATTER THE COLOR.

  8. Robert Long says:

    I say we get all the innocent people out the city. And just let everyone out of jail and seal off the city. And let them have it. Anyone found guilty will be sent there and never come back. Sounds good to me =P

    1. Azman says:

      i agree and just call in air strikes, at least then we can start a new slate

  9. JIM DECK says:

    can’t you give the black man a chance. it was a mistake

    1. Tom says:

      Stop with the race card idiot.

    2. Tom says:

      A mistake he can’t take back. His lawyer told him to tell the court that he didn’t mean to kill the guy. Shut up with your black pride b/s.

  10. CJ says:

    Yes, this was a terrible crime. But it wasnt the “only” awful murder in 2010 or the “most horrendous” one either. What about the one on February 6, 2010 in 3 feet of snow where the white boy went and stabbed the black boy 41 times then got out on $5500 bail and has STILL never made it to a trial for that murder yet? No one ever has anything to say about that young man who was killed, or the family he left behind, the unborn child he never got to meet, or even the family of the murderer. Amazing how people have so much to say at the time of a crime or trial, but during the interim between the two, or afterwards, nobody remembers anything.

  11. JIM DECK says:

    i feel bad for the black man, he did not mean to klill anyone, why being mean to black people from one black man’s mistake

    1. Tom says:

      He ROBBED somebody. Go back to your Black Panther rally you prick.

      1. Tom says:

        Robbed being the very least of his worries, if he “didn’t mean to kill him” even though his lawyer just told him to say he didn’t mean to kill him.

  12. Kayla says:

    He was killed because when they tried to rob him, he had no cash on him, no cash, no crizack…..can’t have that.

    The velveeeta woman is just as guilty, just a better liar. what a shame for such a promising man.

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