Murder haunts halls of Hardeman building

Real horror story on campus in 1978

By Rosanna Aguilera
On October 27, 2016

Photo by Kaitlin Trujillo
The Hardeman Building used to be the Business Administration building in 1978, and Room 200 was the photography darkroom where the murder happened. Check our social media and the origional story "ASU coed found slain in BA building."

In the 88 years of ASU’s existence, there are bound to be ghost stories and dark histories. The murder of a female freshman in room 200 of the Hardeman Building in 1978 is the most prominent of these horror stories.

“It’s crazy that something like that happened here on campus,” freshman Kassandra Acosta said.

On April 27, 1978, sophomore Robert Mark Wagner murdered freshman Leandra Morales with a pair of scissors in what is now the Hardeman Building. Wagner was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the murder and released in 2003. 

“I have only known this girl this semester,” Wagner said in a Ram Page April 1978 article. “I think her name is Linda or something like that.”

Current students find it hard to believe that the incident happened the way it did.

“It’s hard to imagine someone doing something that brutal to someone they barely knew,” sophomore Devan Griffin said.

According to the article from April 1978, which you can now view on asurampage.com, Wagner was a yearbook photographer working in the photo lab that night when he saw a girl in the keypunch room and went to talk to her.

The article said the two students went to the photo lab, and he began to kiss her. She slapped him. He then continued to kiss her neck and she punched him.

“I started choking her and grabbed a pair of scissors and stabbed her,” Wagner told a detective. “I don’t know how many times.”

The article said he told the detective that he killed her, drug her body down the hall and called a priest around 11 p.m. The priest told him to call the police.

He told them he found a body and he tried to help her, but she “struggled violently,” leaving scratches on his body, and then she died. He changed his story later on and

finally admitted to the murder.

In a Ram Page article from June 1978, it said that the police found three stab wounds on her chest and injuries indicating she had been beaten.

The article said Morales was pronounced dead around 8 or 9 p.m., and Wagner confessed Sunday morning.

The Hardeman Building is now a students’ services center and room 200 now houses the Registrar’s Office. Some people in the building claim witness to ghostly activity such as a figure of a woman in a white dress, but others haven’t seen anything.

“We do get creeped out being up here by ourselves, but we haven’t seen anything solid,” scholarship office worker Vickie Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said they joke around about a ghost being in there doing suspicious things, but haven’t actually seen anything.

The April article said Wagner’s defense attorney Gerald Ratliff said in his closing statement that it was a “cold-blooded murder” of “a girl who resisted affection.”

Ratliff said it was also a “sudden, spontaneous action on the part of Mark Wagner.”

This “sudden” action on Wagner’s part resulted in the murder of Morales, who may or may not currently be wandering the halls of the Hardeman building.

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