Man Sentenced In Researcher’s Murder Says He Is Innocent

BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Unexpected comments from a convicted killer. He will spend his life behind bars for murdering a Johns Hopkins researcher, but he still says he didn’t do it.

Weijia Jiang was at Mitchell Courthouse for Friday’s sentencing.

John Wagner, 38, will die in prison. A judge gave him a life sentence plus 20 years for the felony murder of 23-year-old Stephen Pitcairn, a Johns Hopkins researcher stabbed to death in July 2010.

Since the beginning, Pitcairn’s family has said little in public. They left without commenting.

“I think they’re happy with the verdict,” Assistant Baltimore State’s Attorney Josh Felsen. “It’s hard for them because they have to move on with their lives without their son or brother.”

In court, Pitcairn’s mother– who was on the phone at the time her son was attacked– begged the judge for a maximum punishment.

She called Wagner an evil man who doesn’t belong in society after such a senseless, disgusting tragedy. She said: “I would never want another family to bear the horror that we have been through.”

Wagner addressed the court too, and Pitcairn’s family. Even moments before he was sentenced, he maintained his innocence.

Wagner said: “I do not believe justice was served because there’s still a killer out there. I can’t stand here and apologize or be apologetic to this family because I am not responsible.”

“I’m glad he got what was coming to him,” Stephen Pitcairn’s neighbor said.

For a conviction, prosecutors relied heavily on Wagner’s girlfriend, Lavelva Merritt. She was cleared of murder charges in exchange for testimony against him.

It’s a case State’s Attorney Gregg Bernstein used to win his job, pointing to Wagner’s history of falling through the cracks of the justice system because of poor leadership.

Wagner has a lengthy criminal past. Now he’ll never walk free again.

Wagner’s public defender says he will file an appeal.

Merritt is scheduled to be sentenced next month.


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