Pike County murders: 3 big questions, 2 years later

Published: Sunday, April 22, 2018 @ 10:30 AM

Pike County murders: 8 victims, no arrests, 2 years later

UPDATE: Nov. 13, 2018

Four members of the Wagner family were arrested Tuesday, November 13, 2018 for the murders of eight members of the Rhoden family in 2016. Here is the latest on the arrests.

Original Report:

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Two years after eight people were murdered in their homes in Pike County, Ohio, the shooting deaths remain unsolved.

Hannah Rhoden, 19, Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40; his ex-wife, Dana Rhoden, 37; their sons, Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16, and Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 20; Frankie’s fiancee, Hannah Gilley, 20; and relatives Kenneth Rhoden, 44, and Gary Rhoden, 38 died in the shootings.

FULL REPORT: Pike County Murders: 8 deaths, 2 years, no answers

1. What happened to the family in Alaska?

Last June, DeWine announced he was “laser focused” on members of the Wagner family, a family in Kenai, Alaska who formerly lived near the Rhodens in Ohio. The Bureau of Criminal Investigation and other agencies executed search warrants at their former residence.

The Wagners appeared to still be in Alaska as of December, when, according to Alaska court records, Edward Jacob “Jake” Wagner, 25, pleaded no contest to a speeding ticket issued in Soldotna, about a three hour drive south of Anchorage.

» Who are the Wagners? Pike County murders investigators want to know

Wagner fathered a daughter with Hannah Rhoden, one of the victims, but DeWine has not named him or three other family members — George “Billy” Wagner, his wife, Angela, and their other son, George — as suspects.

The Wagners “continue to be saddened by the loss of the Rhodens,” John Kearson Clark Jr., the family’s attorney, told this newspaper this month. “Especially with each passing year, and yet the case is not resolved.”

“Despite what has been said and alleged, the Wagners were on friendly terms with the Rhodens,” Clark said by email. “Therefore, the Wagners had no reason to wish them harm.”

2. What happened to James Manley, the brother arrested for alleged tampering?

In May, authorities arrested James Manley, the brother of victim Dana Manley Rhoden, on charges of evidence tampering and vandalism after allegedly destroying a GPS tracker placed on his car during the investigation.

A Pike County judge dismissed the charges against Manley so that evidence could be presented to a grand jury. There have been no announcements since of any grand jury action.

» Pike County murders: ‘There will always be a scar on this town’

Manley’s attorney, James Boulger, and Pike County Prosecutor Rob Junk did not respond to requests for comment.

“I have nothing I can say about that,” DeWine said when asked about Manley’s case.

3. Will the next attorney general keep the investigation as a top priority? 

Because officials have characterized the case as the largest criminal inquiry in Ohio history, the two candidates to become Ohio’s next attorney general - DeWine leaves office in January - face the decision of whether they would continue to consider solving the Pike County murders as the office’s number one priority.

» Pike County murder victims: A closer look at the 8 who died

“Anyone who would predict this nine months before taking office, without seeing the evidence and understanding the posture of the investigation at that time, is a fool, or a poltroon, or both — and not fit for the office of attorney general,” said Dave Yost, the Ohio auditor and Republican candidate for attorney general, in an email.

Yost’s Democratic opponent, Steve Dettelbach, held his cards even closer.

“I’ve spent two decades as a prosecutor,” Dettelbach, the former U.S. attorney for the northern district of Ohio, said by text message. “I don’t and won’t politicize an important murder investigation.”

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