President Bush has signed into law a veterans bill requiring the cremated remains of a double murderer to be removed from Arlington National Cemetery.
Senate Bill 3421, a $3.2 billion veterans' health care and benefits package, was among about 20 bills Bush signed Friday.
One section of the law requires the secretary of the Army to remove from the cemetery the ashes of Russell Wayne Wagner, who was convicted of murdering an elderly Hagerstown couple, Daniel and Wilda Davis, in their home in 1994. The ashes must either go to Wagner's next-of-kin or the secretary must "arrange for an appropriate disposition of the remains."
The law is called the Veterans Benefits, Health Care, and Information Technology Act of 2006. The provision requiring removal of Wagner's ashes was added at the request of Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, and Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.
Wagner, a Vietnam veteran, died of a heroin overdose in prison in 2005. He was sentenced in 2002 to consecutive life terms for killing the Davises during a burglary. They were found bound and stabbed in their ransacked home.
Wagner's sister, Karon Anderson, arranged for Wagner's remains to be placed at Arlington National Cemetery. He qualified for the privilege because he had been honorably discharged from the U.S. Army in 1972.
In January, Bush signed a law barring any veteran convicted of a capital crime from having his or her remains placed at a national cemetery.