Burial bill faces debate

November 09, 2005

WASHINGTON -- Maryland Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski joined the chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee yesterday to try and close a loophole that allowed the killer of a Hagerstown couple to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Mikulski, a Democrat, and Sen. Larry E. Craig, an Idaho Republican, are pushing an amendment to a defense bill being debated in the Senate this week to prevent any veteran convicted of a capital crime - in either state or federal court - from being buried in a military cemetery, or from receiving military honors at a private cemetery.

The existing law, passed in 1997, allows veterans convicted in state court, and sentenced to life with the possibility of parole, to remain eligible.

That's what happened with Russell Wayne Wagner, whose ashes were interred at Arlington in July.

Convicted in the 1994 slayings of Hagerstown residents Daniel and Wilda Davis, Wagner died of a heroin overdose in prison in February. The couple's son has advocated for changing the law.

The Senate should complete work on the bill by the end of the week.

Gwyneth K. Shaw

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