SMITHSBURG, Md. - Fulfilling her promise to his family, Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) met with Vernon Davis, whose parents' brutal killer was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors because he served in the military. Senator Mikulski announced the Senate's unanimous passage of her proposal, a joint effort with Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho), to have the remains of convicted murderer Russell Wayne Wagner removed from Arlington. Wagner killed Daniel and Wilda Davis, two elderly residents of Hagerstown, Md. He later died of a heroin overdose while in jail. The proposal was included in the "Veterans' Choice of Representation and Benefits Enhancement Act of 2006," which was passed late last week by the full Senate.
"This family's courage has helped to shape national policy. Because of their hard work, no other family will have to fight to keep a convicted murderer out of our national cemeteries," said Senator Mikulski. "My promises made to the Davis family will be promises kept. I will keep working with my colleagues to see this proposal through. The remains of this brutal killer do not belong in the hallowed grounds of Arlington National Ceremony."
A companion bill has not yet been passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. Once a vote has occurred, the House and Senate will meet in Conference Committee to work out the differences between the two versions of the bill. Once the Conference report is passed by both Houses of Congress, it will go to the President for his signature. If the provision is in the final bill, the Secretary of the Army will then be directed to remove Wagner's ashes.
In addition to this legislation, Senators Mikulski and Craig led the fight to have a bill signed into law by President Bush in January 2006, which ensures that this error will never happen again. The Craig-Mikulski provision takes away burial eligibility for any veteran convicted of a capital crime, whether in federal or state court, regardless of whether parole is a possibility. It also denies funeral honors to veterans being buried in private cemeteries if they have lost eligibility due to a capital conviction.
"We must preserve our national cemeteries as places of honor for our veterans. Arlington is for heroes, not convicted murderers. This continues what has been a daily fight for more than 18 years to safeguard vital veterans' services and benefits," said Senator Mikulski. "We must continue to do all we can to fight for our veterans - part of America's payment of a debt we owe them for their service - a debt that can never be fully repaid."
Google Search: Russell Wayne Wagner