Pike County Killings: George Wagner IV trial for 2016 'execution-style' massacre of 8 members of Rhoden family to resume
PIKE COUNTY, OHIO: Six years after the infamous Pike County killings, George Wagner IV is set to be the first among the accused Wagner family members to go on trial on Monday, September 12. The trial was supposed to start on Tuesday, September 6 but was postponed after the special prosecutor fell ill.
Pike County killings refers to an incident that occurred on April 21, 2016, when eight members of the Rhoden family were killed as they slept peacefully in four different locations in Pike County, Ohio. They were shot and killed in 'execution-style' by members of the Wagner family in a familicide that shocked the community and the state. It took six years and almost a million dollars of investigation expenditure to bring justice to the Rhoden family.
According to DailyMail, the bodies of the victims were found the next morning by a member of the Rhoden family. The victims consisted of seven adults and a 16-year-old young boy. Seven of them were shot execution-style in three different houses, and the 8th victim, an adult, was found dead in his camper. The now 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 of the brutal shooting.
However, George Wagner IV claims that he is not guilty. Defense attorneys for George IV stated that he had nothing to do with the 2016 murders, saying he did not shoot or kill anyone on that night.
Prosecutors have claimed that the Wagners family killed Hanna, both 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. They used guns with silencers for the killing spree. Other murder victims were Clarence’s fiancée, Hannah Gilley, 20; Christopher’s brother Kenneth Rhoden, 44; and his 38-year-old cousin Gary Rhoden. All of the victims were shot in the head multiple times as they were sleeping.
Meanwhile, in June, it was reported that Jake and Angela have agreed to testify against Wagner IV after pleading guilty to their part in the murders in 2021. However, 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, permitted the testimonies and refuted the defense's request to halt it. The trial for George "Billy" Wagner III, the Wagner family patriarch, will reportedly begin before the end of October.
The reason behind Wagners taking up this horrendous step is that they wanted to have full custody of Jake and Hannah's child. Jake is believed to have started a relationship with her when she was just 13. However, Hannah at the age of 15 became pregnant while Jake was 20 at the time. Later, the duo broke up and Hannah began dating another man, and also had another child. This is when Jake allegedly pressured her to give up custody of their baby. But when she denied his claim on their child, the Wagners family allegedly planned to kill Hannah as well as her relatives to get the child.
Currently, Wagner's mother, Angela, 51, was sentenced to 30 years in prison l where she admitted to conspiracy to murder the family of eight. Meanwhile, Edward 'Jake' Wagner was sentenced to eight life terms in prison after pleading guilty under a plea deal. Edward himself was given eight full life sentences without the option of parole in 2021 after agreeing to a plea deal. The plea deal stated no possibility of the death penalty for himself and his family members. Additionally, he pleaded guilty to 23 felony charges, including eight of the murders, while his mother pleaded guilty to several counts of aggravated burglary, tampering with evidence, and other charges.