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Pitcairn Murderer Sentenced to Life in Prison

John Wagner, who was convicted of killing Hopkins researcher Stephen Pitcairn, maintained his innocence before sentencing.

Beneath the statue of Cecilius Calvert along St. Paul Street, at the rear of the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse, the family of Stephen Pitcairn exchanged hugs and said good-bye after making their final appearance in a Baltimore courtroom.

On Friday John Wagner, the man convicted of killing Stephen Pitcairn, was sentenced to life plus 20 years in prison by Judge Charles Peters. In August a jury convicted Wagner, 38, of stabbing and killing Stephen Pitcairn in the 2600 block of St. Paul Street in Charles Village in July 2010.

“Mr. Wagner I’m showing you the same mercy you showed Mr. Pitcairn,” Peters said before handing down the maximum sentence allowed by law.

Stephen Pitcairn’s mother Gwen Pitcairn, and one of his sisters, Emily Pitcairn, testified at the sentencing.

“Words can’t describe how this has impacted my life,” Gwen Pitcairn said.

Gwen Pitcairn was on the telephone with her son when Wagner and his girlfriend Lavelva Merritt approached, robbed and stabbed Stephen Pitcairn. Merritt received a plea deal in exchange for her testimony against Wagner. Merritt has not yet been sentenced.

Gwen Pitcairn described her son as a sweet, kind and beautiful person who couldn’t wait to go to medical school to develop a cure for cancer.

“He was going to make a difference,” Gwen Pitcairn said.

By contrast she called Wagner, who was seated just a few feet away, “evil”.

Emily Pitcairn, who spoke between sobs, said Stephen Pitcairn’s murder had irrevocably altered her family.

“Our whole family has been shattered. The family I used to have isn’t there anymore,” Emily Pitcairn said.

Wagner’s attorney Gregory Fischer asked Peters for leniency. He described how one of Wagner’s eight sisters spoke about Wagner’s abusive parents, struggles with depression and his efforts to defend his siblings while growing up.  

“Mr. Wagner is not the monster he’s being made out to be,” Fischer said.

Wagner, who was brought to the courthouse about two hours after he was scheduled to appear, said that he didn’t event want to participate in the sentencing.

“Because I believe justice wasn’t served in these proceedings,” Wagner said.

Wagner said he understands the loss and pain felt by Pitcairn’s family, but that the real killer was still free.

But Peters called the murder “utterly pointless and senseless” before sentencing Wagner to life in prison for the felony murder conviction and 20 years to serve consecutively for the conviction for the conspiracy to rob with a dangerous weapon.

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Gerard Busnuk October 21, 2011 at 06:22 PM
It would be nice if the family, and all of us, knew, for real, what "life in prison" actually means, and thus, why it would be necessary to have an additonal 20 year sentence added consecutively to it.
Adam Bednar (Editor) October 21, 2011 at 06:48 PM
In this case Josh Felsen, the prosecutor, explained to the family after the sentencing that it would take the governor to sign off on him getting paroled. The extra 20 was tacked on consecutively because he was convicted and needed to be sentenced.
ralahinn1 October 21, 2011 at 09:34 PM
He's going to make someone a pretty wife ^ _ ^
ALan Z. Forman October 22, 2011 at 02:21 PM
Josh Felsen tried a masterful case, was so good the State's Attorney's Office felt it unnecessary for him to require a second chair, unusual for such a high-profile case. It was heartening to see how closely he and Gregg Bernstein's people worked with the Pitcairn Family as well and how sympathetic they, along with defense attorney Gregory Fischer, were to the family's plight. [ See Voice of Baltimore article: http://voiceofbaltimore.org/archives/744 ] AL Forman Managing Editor VoiceofBaltimore.org
Sean Tully October 22, 2011 at 05:16 PM
The real question is why have judges been so lenient with Wagner over the years? If he had been required to serve his full sentence (pick any one of the many convictions), I'll bet he would not have been out on the street the night he took Mr. Pitcairn's life. I am all for rehabilitation of offenders, but once someone has demonstrated they are a career criminal, some type of policy that requires criminals to serve their full sentences should go into effect.
Clarke M. Byron October 23, 2011 at 01:44 AM
The real question to be asked, is what the hell was he thinking, that he could walk from Penn station to home without difficulty??? I wouldn't attempt that without my colt 357 python in the daylight no less!!! The Canadians are ALWAYS out there waiting for you!!!
Clarke M. Byron October 23, 2011 at 02:23 AM
The reason he's out, is because the city judges have no stones and Patricia ( "I sho' hates to put a Negro in jail") Jessamy thought he was not a threat to society-LOL. He will be taken of where he winds up-trust me!!! Enjoy your days scumbag. The end is near!!!
Sean Tully October 23, 2011 at 05:14 PM
Yea, but this guy was in trouble in Baltimore County too, as I understand it.
Sean Tully October 23, 2011 at 05:15 PM
I don't blame the guy for wanting to walk home. Was it smart? Probably not. But it certainly wasn't his fault that he is dead.

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