A controversy over the burial of the remains of a convicted murderer at Arlington National Cemetery might make it harder for other convicts to be buried there, reports the Washington Post. Russell Wayne Wagner, 52, died in February while serving two life sentences for the 1994 murders of two elderly people in Hagerstown, Md. After the victims’ son objected to the Arlington interment, the Army and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee said they will study the issue.
Congress passed a law in 1997 barring those convicted of capital crimes from being buried in a national cemetery. The law was designed to block the possibility of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, a veteran, being buried at Arlington. Wagner, an Army private, served in Vietnam War and was honorably discharged in 1972. He was eligible for parole when he died, which made him eligible for an Arlington service. His sister contacted the cemetery, and on July 27, his ashes were placed in a columbarium as a bugler played taps and soldiers fired a salute. Army officials said there are no legal grounds to remove his remains. But some now wonder whether the restriction should cover a broader range of criminals.