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Published: Tuesday, June 20, 2017 @ 8:15 PM
PIKE COUNTY — UPDATE Nov. 13 @ 1:40 p.m.:
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.
Four members of the Wagner family, of South Webster, Ohio, were taken into custody this afternoon, the AG’s office said in a media release.
George “Billy” Wagner III, 47, Angela Wagner, 48, George Wagner, 27, and Edward “Jake” Wagner, 26, were all taken into custody. The Wagners have been charged with planning and carrying out the deaths of the eight Rhoden family members on April 22, 2016.
The suspects – a husband, wife, and their two adult sons - are now charged with killing eight people: seven members of the #RhodenFamily and the fiancée of one of the victims. We will release more information later today. #PikeCounty pic.twitter.com/IKf6luYSXQ— Ohio AG Mike DeWine (@OhioAG) November 13, 2018
Here’s what we know about the suspects:
1. Edward “Jake” Wagner, 26
Edward “Jake” Wagner is the 26-year-old who fathered a daughter with Hanna Rhoden. He is one of four people investigators wanted more information about after the murders of Rhoden and seven others in Pike County.
Jake is the father of Sophia, who was 2 when her mother Hanna Rhoden was shot to death in her Pike County home. Sophia wasn’t with her mother when Hanna was killed. There were three children – ages 3, 6 months and 4days – found in the carnage in two of the three mobile homes where eight bodies were found in rural Pike County.
Dana Rhoden’s father, Leonard Manley, previously told this news outlet that Jake Wagner and Hanna Rhoden were in a custody dispute over the girl.
His grandmother, Fredericka Wagner, said in April 2017 that he said nothing to do with the April 22, 2016, massacre.
“They have nothing,” Fredericka Wagner said in a 2017 Dayton Daily News interview. “Their searches have turned up zilch. Nothing. And they aren’t going to either because Jake had nothing to do with it.”
2. Angela Wagner, 48
Angela Wagner is the mother of Edward “Jake” Wagner, the 26-year-old man who fathered a daughter with Hanna Rhoden.
3. George “Billy” Wagner III, 47
George “Billy” Wagner III is the 47-year-old father of Edward “Jake” Wagner. He was arrested at 2150 Georgetown Road in Lexington, Kentucky, according to police. He is being held as a “fugitive from another state.”
4. George Wagner IV, 27
George Wagner IV is the brother of Edward “Jake” Wagner.
Here’s what we know about the Wagner family:
In April 2017, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine had not named any of the Wagners as suspects in the case. But he asked the public to cough up more information about the family, who lived in Alaska at the time.
DeWine’s request was met with so many calls to Alaska authorities, the Anchorage Police Department begged residents to stop calling.
INITIAL REPORT IN APRIL 2017:
The family — according to Kelly Cinereski, a pastor friend in Seward, a two-hour drive from Kenai — has long sought to live in Alaska and made three trips there in the past decade.
This trip, the visit could be permanent.
“I am looking for a 3 bedroom that is pet friendly or a owner finance house,” Angela Wagner’s Facebook account posted June 3 on a group called “Kenai & Soldotna Home & Apartment Rental Search.”
Cinereski said the family attended Sunday service at his son’s church in Kenai. After speaking Monday with the Daily News, his church’s Facebook account posted a message.
“Good evening church, this is pastor Kelly,” the post reads. “I just wanted you all to know that I am aware of the current situation involving the Wagner family. The lead investigator in southern Ohio does not have any evidence that the Wagners are guilty in this case.”
Without identifying the investigator, the post said he “has my phone number and I have his.”
“I talked with the Wagner family today and they have assured me that this is just an accusation. So we will just leave it at that,” the post said. “Please Pray God’s will be done.”
Cinereski told the Daily News the Wagners fished during their previous trips to Alaska.
The peninsula is a fisherman’s paradise. The Kenai River, which winds through the peninsula, is the state’s most heavily fished river and is filled with salmon, trout and pike. Fishing and hunting appear to be Wagner family pastimes, as Jake, George III and Angela each possessed either Ohio hunting or fishing licenses over the past decade.
Angela Wagner’s Facebook cover photo, also updated on June 3, shows what appears to be the idyllic outdoor Alaska setting: a snow-capped peak jutting between blue waters and skies.
“That was Alaska,” she wrote. “No humidity cool crisp air clean water.”
Life in Ohio
While rural, the borough is more affluent than much of southern Ohio. Unemployment is lower on the peninsula. Census data show the median household income is $63,684 compared to $42,778 in Adams County, Ohio, where the family lived.
Bernie Brown, who owns an Ohio 41 site in Adams County visited by investigators last month during their search, told WCPO-TV 9 in Cincinnati that Jake Wagner sometimes worked for him fixing cars.
The week before the search, the Wagners had dropped items off at the property, he said. Investigators then searched two large trailers and took one smaller utility trailer owned by the Wagners.
Investigators last month also searched property formerly owned by Jake and George Wagner IV.
Then, abruptly, there was an arrest — of James Manley, the brother of victim Dana Manley Rhoden, on charges of tampering with evidence and vandalism for allegedly destroying a state GPS tracker on his truck.
Manley’s father, Leonard Manley, accused authorities of attaching the tracker on the truck because of text messages allegedly exchanged between Jake Wagner and James Manley the night of the murders.
Days before DeWine’s announcement, Jake Wagner told the Cincinnati Enquirer the text messages “did not happen.”
Ohio authorities ask those who have information in the case to call the Pike County Sheriff’s Office at 740-947-2111. Authorities said information provided will remain confidential, and a $10,000 reward is still in effect.