Rhoden family murders: George Wagner IV to stand trial for gruesome execution-style slaying of EIGHT people
PIKE COUNTY, OHIO: A murder trial of a man allegedly involved in the mass murder of eight people of the same family is set to begin soon. George Wagner IV and his family allegedly killed Hanna Rhoden, 19, and seven of her relatives in April 2016. As per reports, the opening arguments of the case is expected to start on September 6, 2022.
The 30-year-old George Wagner IV, his mother, Angela Jo Wagner, his younger brother, Edward ‘Jake’ Wagner, and his father George "Billy" Wagner III are all accused in the gruesome massacre. In June, it was reported that Jake and Angela have agreed to testify against Wagner IV after pleading guilty to their parts in murders in 2021. But defense attorney John Parker objected to it by saying: “My client does have the right to confront any of the witnesses against him at trial and cross-examine those witnesses. But under the plea agreement they have struck with Jake, he has to follow the script.”
Pike County Common Pleas Judge Randy Deering, however, gave permission to the testimonies and refuted the defense's request to halt it. The trial for Wagner III will reportedly begin before the end of October.
Prosecutors have claimed that the Wagners killed Hanna; her parents, Christopher Rhoden Sr, 40, and his former wife, Dana Manley Rhoden, 37; along with her siblings, Christopher Rhoden Jr, 16, and Clarence Rhoden, 20, with silenced guns as they slept. Other murder victims were Clarence’s fiancée, Hannah Gilley, 20; Christopher’s brother Kenneth Rhoden, 44; and his 38-year-old cousin Gary Rhoden. Three children were also at the scene when the killings were carried out but they were left unhurt.
The Wagners allegedly took the cruel step because they wanted to have the full custody of Hannah and Jake’s child. Jake is believed to have started a relationship with the teen victim when she was just 13. Hannah at the age of 15 became pregnant while Jake was 20 at the time.
However, when Hannah broke up with him and began dating another man, and also had another child, Jake allegedly began to harass her. He apparently continuously pressured her to give up custody of their baby. But when she denied his claim on the child, they allegedly planned to kill Hannah as well as her relatives to get the child. To carry out their alleged evil plan, they purchased ammunition, parts for silencers, ‘brass catchers’ along with a truck and shoes specifically for the mass murder.
Angela Canepa, a special prosecutor in the case, referred to the Wagners as “insular,” who “did everything together and kept to themselves for the most part.” The accused family has also been called a “criminal enterprise”. But their lawyers have denied the portrayal. In a hearing, an attorney for George Wagner IV said: “A large part of the state’s argument we anticipate is: ‘He’s a Wagner, and this is how the Wagners operate. The jury needs to understand the basic premise of our criminal justice system is as follows: our law punishes people for what they do, not [for] who they are.”