WASHINGTON – The cremated remains of a convicted murderer must be removed from Arlington National Cemetery under a new federal law.
The provision ordering the removal of Russell Wayne Wagner's remains was included in a veterans' health care and benefits bill that President Bush signed into law on Friday.
Wagner, a Vietnam veteran, was convicted in 2002 of stabbing to death Daniel Davis, 84, and Wilda Davis, 80, in their home in 1994. He was sentenced to life in prison.
Wagner died in 2005 of a heroin overdose in prison at age 52. Because he was honorably discharged from the Army in 1969, he qualified for interment at Arlington. His remains were placed there July 27, 2005, at the request of his sister.
Vernon G. Davis, the son of the victims, objected to the honor for Wagner and has since tried to get the remains removed from the cemetery.
A 1997 law prohibited people convicted of capital crimes and sentenced to death or life imprisonment without parole from being interred at 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.
In January, Bush signed into law a ban on burial at national cemeteries for veterans convicted of capital crimes, which eliminated the loophole that allowed Wagner's remains to be placed at Arlington.
The law Bush signed Friday includes a specific order to remove Wagner's remains from the cemetery.
The ashes must either go to Wagner's next-of-kin or the Army must "arrange for an appropriate disposition of the remains," according to the bill.