Wagner gets 15 years to life for murder

ST. CLAIRSVILLE The final chapter of a shooting tragedy that left a man dead and two families and a community grieving saw its close Friday at Belmont County Common Pleas Court.

Carol Jane Wagner, 50, 71680 Fairpoint-New Athens Road, St. Clairsville, was given a sentence of 15 years to life for murder, a felony of the first degree occurring Aug. 14. During a dispute with her longtime boyfriend David Bower at his address in Fairpoint, Wagner took a firearm belonging to Bower and fatally shot him.

Belmont County Prosecutor Chris Berhalter and Assistant Prosecutor Helen Yonak represented the state. John A. Vavra represented Wagner. Judge John M. Solovan II presided.

Members of Bower’s and Wagner’s families filled the courtroom during an emotional sentencing. Bower’s sister, step daughter, and friends of the family spoke about Bower’s presence in their lives and the lasting harm in his loss.

Wagner’s daughter expressed sorrow for Bower’s death but said she did not believe the killing was deliberate. She added that Wagner regrets the shooting.

Vavra asked Solovan to consider Wagner’s past physical and emotional abuse and psychological issues, as well as her longtime battle with alcohol and efforts to seek help.

“This truly was a tragedy,” he said. “This is something she deals with every day.”

Berhalter noted that Wagner fired four times and fatally hit Bower three times.

“That was not a mistake. That was not an accident,” he said.

A tearful Wagner apologized to Bower’s family.

“I never meant for any of this to happen,” she said. “I am so sorry.”

Solovan acknowledged Wagner’s background and expressed remorse, but said her crime fit the law’s definition of purpose.

“The victim’s family continues to grieve,” he said. “This tragedy has impacted numerous families as well as the entire community of Belmont County, and the impact will not be forgotten.”

DeFrank can be reached at rdefrank@timesleaderonline.com