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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.

  • Dragineez

    What’s the point of allowing this animal to remain alive?

  • Kay

    What the F*** is life plus 20 years??? Who came up with sentences like this. He should die instead of sucking up my tax dollars living for free!!!! DEATH PENALTY FOR MUDERERS!!!!

    • SMC

      I agree with you on this one, Kay. What is life plus twenty years? I don’t see anything that says “without parole”. Does this mean that he will be eligble for parole at some time or does the “plus 20 years” mean w/o parole? He committed murder and robbery, so doesn’t that make this a capital case also making him eligble for the death penalty? In Texas and Florida he would be heading to death row. Maryland laws and our govenor are soft.



  • Working Poor

    Life plus 20 years means even if he gets paroled on the life conviction or if the life sentence is overturned on appeal, he still has another 20 years to go or vice versa.

    As far as frying him, I think that would be too humane. Firing squads, gladiator pits, or crucifictions are more fitting. However, you are lieing to yourself if you think executions are cheaper than life in prison.

    • Kay

      It would only take 1 b****t to the head that is cheaper than letting him live in prison for all that time. You don’t even have to bury him, leave him in a ditch in the country to ROT!!! If the government cared about saving money, instead of keeping these types of criminals alive in our prison systems. They could do it!!!

  • Winkpooh

    If there was ever a time when the death penalty was suitable, this case warrants it. How can this piece of floating poo-poo get off so easily. He should be executed. My heart breaks for the victims mother who had to actually hear her child get killed. I would guess she’ll never have another decent night’s sleep as long as she lives. Mr. O’Malley, why are you such a softy when it comes to dishing out proper justice? (death penalty)

  • Shannon



    This case should of been a Death Penallty case….Wagner should of been put to death and the girlfriend should of got life plus 20 plea deal my ass…..

  • Sezmane

    they should call it dirt planet dirt!!

  • jr

    People get killed in baltimore everyday.I think the penalty should be the same regardless of who was killed.If someone in west baltimore where i live gets killed its not a big deal but just because he went to jhu doesnt make him any different.

    • James Hecht

      @ jr,

      I am from “west Balt.’ People get killed there and in other parts of the world because of a lack of social edict. My question to you is,… have you made it a point to become the very best in your passion?

      Are you going to be all you can be for others?

      Your post say’s not!

      Prove me wrong.


  • Reality Check

    Jr, I agree. Race should not matter. If any individual takes the life of another and it is not in self-defense, then that individual should have his or her life taken in the same manner or a worse manner. Eye for an Eye . Yes, I am an African American female who reside in the city and I AM PRO-DEATH PENALTY ALL THE WAY.

  • chalkie

    To prove a point that all of us are trying to get across, murder is murder. Why should this guy deserves to live his life behind bars for the rest of his life, when this guy needs to be executed. The law should be the same for all. If you murder, rape, or touch a child in a inappropriated sexaul way, there should be no question as to the punishment, it should be death. The average prisoner in the state of maryland cost the tax payers $57000 a year to clothe, feed, and housing and medical. It is alot cheaper to execute them. And if you execute enough people for crimes like I said you will see a drastic drop in capital crimes in this state. Look at other states that execute people on a regular basis, there are alot less of these crime. I am a firm believer in the death penalty, but this state has to many bleeding hearts in it, starting at the top of our governoring officals. But who are the ones to scream the loudest when something like this happens to one of thier family member, the ones against the death penity. Then all of a sudden they are all for it. Judges should be made to make all punishents acrossed the board more level. These criminals know when they draw certain judges that they are going to get alot less of a sentencefor thier crimes. If you a judge and don’t have the heart to sentence someone to what they should be getting, then step down and let another lawyer step up to judge that will. Our state legal system is a joke and thats why they fudge the numbers to say crimes are going down. Cannot wait to election time, maybe we will get some state officals in office that actaully care about the people in this state and push for changes to our Judiciary system. But that is like wishing for a elected offical that can control spending and balance a budget with out robbing the people of this state with new taxes and fees like O’malley has done to all of us.

  • Bernard Mc Kernan

    They’re all innocent, don’t you know? Eight years at the womesn detention cetter taught me that while tryong to mentor many womes. It was similar to tryong to take pant’s off a bare ass. They’re all of the same ilk , it’s in their DNA lying cheating so much they themselves believe it after awhile.

  • Stephen Link

    Unexpected?Show me a newsreel of some punk walking out the Lexington st exit of Mitchell Courthouse saying “Let’s have a hang for our heroic law enforcement officers!As soon as i stood before the judge 5 minutes ago,i fired my lawyer and pled guilty to every count.I then hugged every member of the victim’s family and asked for death.No appeals.I dare O’Malley to commute my sentence!”

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