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Pike County murders: DeWine lays out charges in 2016 Rhoden family killings

Published: Tuesday, November 13, 2018 @ 4:16 PM
Updated: Tuesday, November 13, 2018 @ 11:12 PM

Mike DeWine announces in a press conference that four members of the Wagner family will face the death penalty for the eight murders of the Rhodens.

Six members of the Wagner family were arrested Tuesday in the killing of eight members of the Rhoden family in Pike County in 2016, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced at a news conference.

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  • 6 members of the Wagner family were arrested today
  • George “Billy” Wagner III, 47; Edward “Jake” Wagner, 26; Angela Wagner, 48; and George Wagner IV, 27, are charged with aggravated murder
  • Rita Newcomb, 65, and Fredericka Wagner, 76, are charged with obstructing justice, perjury
Who are the Wagners, accused of planning and carrying out the murders of the Rhodens in Pike County?

There is no evidence anyone else was involved in the killings, DeWine said.

“The people who did it are in custody,” he said.

The six were indicted in the deaths of Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40; Dana Manley Rhoden, 37; Hanna May Rhoden, 19; Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16; Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 20; Hannah “Hazel” Gilley, 20; Kenneth Rhoden, 44; and Gary Rhoden, 38.

“All eight victims were killed in cold blood,” said DeWine, who is governor-elect. “Thankfully in their only show of mercy, they spared the three children at the scene.”

George “Billy” Wagner III, 47; his wife, Angela Wagner, 48; and their sons, George Wagner IV and Edward “Jake” Wagner, 27 and 26, were indicted Tuesday on multiple charges including eight counts of aggravated murder. 

Each count -- for each victim -- carries a death penalty specification.

Fredericka Wagner, the mother of Billy Wagner, and Rita Newcomb, the mother of Angela Wagner, were indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice. Newcomb also was indicted on forgery charges, according to court documents.

>> 6 arrested, 4 could face death penalty in Rhoden family slayings

The four Wagners indicted on murder charges also face charges of conspiracy, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, tampering with evidence, unlawful possession of a dangerous ordnance, forgery, unauthorized use of property, interception of wire, oral or electronic communications, obstructing justice and aggravated burglary.

Jake Wagner additionally is accused of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor. The charge accuses him of engaging in sexual contact with Hanna Rhoden when she was 15. The two share a child, Sophia, who was 2 when her mother was killed.

The two-year investigation of the Pike County killings was the “longest, most complex” investigation in this history of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, DeWine said.

“We have never stopped working toward justice for the victims,” he said.

The attorney general’s office received more than 1,100 tips conducted 550 interviews related to the case. Investigators traveled to 10 states and served 200 subpoenas and search warrants. 

“This is not the end, rather a new day in this case,” DeWine said.

Four people have been arrested Tuesday in connection to the murders of eight members of the Rhoden family in Pike County in 2016, according to the Ohio Attorney General's Office.

DeWine declined to discuss the motive in depth, but said the child between Jake Wagner and Hanna Rhoden played a role in the homicides.

>> Who are the Wagners? Pike County murder investigators want to know

He also said there was an “undercurrent of drugs” to the killings.

Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader said, “Regardless of what we found … no one deserved in the dark of the night for cowards to come in … and execute them.”

The suspects, he said, “did this quickly, coldly, calmly.” 

He said the victims “deserve respect, because they are true victims of a heinous crime.”

The case is expected to be a long process, Pike County Prosecutor Robert Junk said. He anticipates it will take years before the cases are concluded.

DeWine also stressed that the Wagners are suspects and presumed innocent until proven guilty.

RELATED LINKS:

Timeline: The shocking events of the Pike County shooting

Pike County murders: ‘Active and ongoing’ continues 

Pike County murders: 3 big questions, 2 years later

Rhoden family member’s Pike County death came from gunshot to chest