8/11/2005

Military Burial Law to Be Re-Evaluated

A Senate committee plans to review rules that govern who can — and cannot — be laid to rest in national cemeteries after the ashes of a convicted murderer were placed in Arlington National Cemetery.

The Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee will take up the issue in September when Congress returns from its recess, its chairman, Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, said Wednesday.

Russell Wayne Wagner, 52, a Vietnam War veteran, died Feb. 7 of a heroin overdose in prison. In 2002, he was convicted of the Valentine's Day 1994 murders of Daniel Davis, 84, and Wilda Davis, 80, and was sentenced to two consecutive life terms. The victims were found bound and stabbed in their home in Hagerstown, Md.

Wagner's cremated remains were placed at the cemetery July 27. Wagner had been in the Army from 1969 to 1972 and was honorably discharged, service that qualified him for interment at Arlington.

Congress passed a law in 1997 prohibiting people convicted of federal or state capital crimes and sentenced to death or life imprisonment without parole from being interred at Arlington and other military cemeteries. Wagner would have become eligible in 2017 for a review that could have led to parole, according to the Maryland Division of Corrections.

The law was aimed in part at preventing convicted Army veteran Timothy McVeigh, who carried out the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, from being buried in Arlington.

Military Burial Law to Be Re-Evaluated

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