Wagner pleads guilty, gets life sentence in husband’s killing

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The trial for a woman accused of killing and dismembering her husband in 2005 ended abruptly Tuesday when the woman pleaded guilty to murder and concealing a death.

Crystal Mae Wagner, 29, was sentenced to life in prison in accordance with a recommendation from the prosecution and her attorneys.

Wagner’s attorneys struck a plea deal with prosecutors Tuesday morning just as the second day of her trial was scheduled to begin. In exchange for her plea, the prosecution dismissed a theft by taking charge pending against Wagner.

Wagner cried quietly during the plea hearing, but did not speak in her own defense prior to the judge imposing a sentence.

Prosecutor Elizabeth Bobbitt said she received a letter Monday afternoon that Wagner wrote to her boyfriend and co-defendant, 29-year-old Shay Alan Morey. In the letter, Wagner wrote in 2005 about the couple planning and carrying out the murder of her husband, Bobby Gene Wagner.

Franklin J. Hogue, one of Crystal Wagner’s lawyers, said Wagner was ready to discuss a plea deal with the prosecution Tuesday morning even before the prosecution told the defense about the letter.

“Hearing (the testimony) in the courtroom can have a powerful effect on one’s view,” Hogue said.

By pleading guilty with a joint recommendation for sentencing, Wagner avoided a sentence of life without parole, Hogue said.

She faced the death penalty before a February hearing, but prosecutors dropped it in exchange for Wagner waiving her right to a jury trial. At trial, Chief Bibb County Superior Court Judge Martha Christian would have decided Wagner’s fate.

Wagner’s family and friends sat on both sides of the courtroom Tuesday.

Marsha Mathews, Wagner’s aunt, said she was scheduled to testify in her niece’s defense — not because she thinks Wagner is innocent, but to explain why she might have participated in a plan to kill her husband.

“I feel she felt trapped over the years,” said Mathews after the trial.

During the plea hearing, Frank Hogue told the judge that Wagner was abused as a child. The abuse ranged from emotional abuse that left her feeling unwanted and afraid of abandonment to her being locked in her room for days. Hogue also stated that Wagner’s parents were brother and sister.

In opening statements held Monday, prosecutor Elizabeth Bobbitt said Wagner asked Morey to kill her husband so she and Morey could be together. At the time of the killing, Bobby and Crystal Wagner were living with their son and Morey in a motel near Thomaston Road and Interstate 475.

Hogue said Crystal Wagner and Morey met about a year before the killing during a time when Wagner and her husband were separated. She later reunited with her husband, but later was again in a relationship with Morey and they lived together.

At the time of the killing, Bobby Wagner was under the impression that Morey was living in the motel room with the couple and their young son to help his wife, Hogue said.

Wagner suffers from a physical deformity caused by juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, her other attorney, Laura D. Hogue, said Monday.

Bobby Wagner and Morey were friends. In the days prior to the killing, Bobby Wagner tried to get Morey a job at the towing company where he worked, Hogue said.

On Feb. 10, 2005, Bobby Wagner was in the shower when Morey struck him repeatedly on the head. The blows weren’t fatal and Bobby Wagner returned to the bathroom followed by his wife. Crystal Wagner came out and told Morey that her husband was calling the police. Morey went back into the bathroom, where he stabbed Bobby Wagner in the heart, Bobbitt said.

Morey dismembered Wagner’s body after discovering he couldn’t move him, Bobbitt said.

A sheriff’s office crime scene investigator testified Monday that authorities found rope in the motel room and two concrete blocks in the Wagners’ car. Bobbitt said Crystal Wagner and Morey had planned to tie Bobby Wagner to the blocks and dispose of him in a body of water.

Authorities found Bobby Wagner’s remains four days after the killing behind an abandoned house in Twiggs County, testified Lee Weatherby, a GBI crime scene specialist. Wagner’s body was covered by a pile of aluminum hubcaps and cast-iron sinks.

Morey pleaded guilty in 2006 to killing and dismembering Wagner. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Mathews said Bobby and Crystal Wagner’s young son is being raised by Crystal Wagner’s mother.

Information from The Telegraph’s archives was included in this report.

To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.