Late Nov. – Early Dec. 2018: Four members of the Wagner family – George “Billy” Wagner III, Angela Wagner, George Wagner IV and Edward “Jake” Wagner – plead not guilty to all charges. None are released on bail.
Four people were arrested Tuesday in connection with the killing of eight members of the Rhoden family on April 22, 2016.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader and Pike County Prosecutor Rob Junk held a news conference Tuesday afternoon to announce the arrest of George “Billy” Wagner III, 47, Angela Wagner, 48, George Wagner IV, 27, and Edward “Jake” Wagner, 26, for the homicides.
Here’s what we’ve learned:
• The four Wagners were all arrested without incident and each have been charged with eight counts of aggravated murder and other chargers. They all could face the death penalty if convicted.
• Two other people were also arrested for their role in the coverup of the killings. Those suspects, Billy Wagner’s mother, Fredericka, and Angela Wagner’s mother, Rita Newcomb, were both arrested without incident.
• The motive for the killings is related to custody of a daughter Jake Wagner shared with one of the victims, Hanna Rhoden, DeWine said. There are charges included in the indictment filed against the primary suspects accusing them of forging custody documents related to that child, who is now in the custody of Children Services.
• While there was limited forensic evidence at the scene, Reader said the accused killers made mistakes in covering their tracks. Reader mentioned information about the parts to build a silencer, cellphone evidence and the lies the Wagners told during a police investigation.
• According to the indictment, the Wagners monitored the social media accounts of the victims, shared information about the victims, their homes, sleeping habits and cameras on the homes.
• The indictment also accuses the Wagners of buying shoes, ammunition, a magazine clip, items to build “brass catchers” and “silencers.” They’re also accused of moving the bodies of two of the victims, destroying the silencer, phones and cameras.
• DeWine said the killings were meticulously planned for a period of months. The Wagners are believed to have studied the victims and their habits, as well as the layouts of the trailers where they stayed before committing the homicides in the “dead of night” and executing the eight members of the Rhoden family.
• A Pike County investigative grand jury had been working on the case since July, working toward the indictments that were returned Monday. Reader said the arrests of the suspects were coordinated on Tuesday and came as a surprise to the Wagners.
• The Wagners have denied their involvement and maintain their innocence. In a statement issued by their attorney, the four primary suspects said they look forward to their day in court and having the real killers brought to justice.
• While the more than two-year investigation has been ongoing, Reader and others have had to have extra security measures in place because of threats made by the Wagners and others. “I know their work, I know what they’re capable of,” Reader said.
• There is no evidence that anyone else was involved in the killings. DeWine said the residents of Pike County and southern Ohio can sleep well knowing the killers are behind bars.
• All six suspects are being kept separate from one another while they wait for their first court appearance. Reader said two are being kept at the Pickaway County jail and one each are being housed in Delaware, Franklin and Ross counties. Billy Wagner is currently being held in Fayette County, Kentucky, where he was arrested and will be housed in Butler County when he is brought back to Ohio.
• It will likely be several years before the cases are all concluded. Junk said it can take several years for a death penalty case to get to trial and that timeline will be increased with the number of defendants, witnesses and victims in this case.
The Wagners are charged with shooting and killing Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40, his ex-wife Dana Rhoden, 47; their children, Hanna Rhoden, 19, Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16, and Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 20; Frankie Rhoden’s fiancee Hannah Gilley, 20; Christopher Sr.’s brother, Kenneth Rhoden, 44, and cousin Gary Rhoden, 38.
The bodies of the Rhodens were found by one of Dana Rhoden’s relatives on April 22, 2016. Three children between the ages of 5 years and 4 days old were found unharmed.