State And Regional

Pike County murder trial: Prosecutors expected to no longer seek death penalty

PIKE COUNTY — Prosecutors are planning to take the death penalty off the table in the first trial in the Pike County murders case.

While the jury in George Wagner IV’s trial was given a break during the week of Thanksgiving, court was still held to argue procedural hearings, according to our news partners WCPO in Cincinnati.

During proceedings this week, prosecutors said they intend to drop the death penalty specifications against George Wagner IV. This was agreement within plea deals set with both Jake and Angela Wagner.

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Both Jake and Angela traded their testimony in any trials related to the murders for the dismissal of the death penalty against themselves, George and George “Billy” Wagner, all of which have been accused of murder eight people six years ago, WCPO reports.

The members of the Wagner family have been accused of killing Hanna Rhoden, 19; her father, Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40; his wife, Dana Rhoden, 37; their sons, Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16, and Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 20; Frankie’s fiancé, Hannah Gilley, 20; and relatives Kenneth Rhoden, 44, and Gary Rhoden, 38, execution style in April 2016.

Jake pleaded guilty to eight counts of aggravated murder and a list of other charges for his role in April 2021. Five months later, Angela Wagner pleaded guilty to her role in the killings.

A hearing held Monday was regarding a Rule 29 motion. WCPO reports that a Rule 29 motion can be filed by the defense after the prosecution rests. It asks the judge to acquit the defendant of some or all charges if there’s a lack of evidence.

A Rule 29 motion was denied for each of the 22 counts George faces, according to WCPO.

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A hearing over venue was also held. Defenses attorneys argued that because Dana Rhoden’s home, where she, Hanna and Christopher Jr. were killed, is across the Scioto County line, charges related their deaths should not apply to this trial.

A defense attorney cited a section on the Ohio Revised Code that states that when an offender commits offenses in different jurisdictions, they can be tried for all offenses in the jurisdiction where the offense took place.

Judge Randy Deering ruled that George could be tried for the three murders in Pike County.

Jurors will return for trial of Monday, Nov. 28. WCPO reports that it will be then when the prosecution announces that they are no longer considering the death penalty in the case.

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