Piketon Murders: Did the Wagners really kill 8 members of the Rhoden family over a custody battle?
The victims consisted of seven adults of varying ages and a 16-year-old boy and they were all found shot execution-style in three different houses and one camper
On the night of April 21, 2016, eight members of the Rhoden family, who were peacefully sleeping in their beds in four different locations in Pike County, Ohio, were shot and killed in a familicide that shocked the community and the state.
The murders in the county, which is just 60 miles from Cincinnati, had people fearing for their lives.
The bodies of the victims were found the next morning by a member of the Rhoden family. The victims consisted of seven adults of varying ages and a 16-year-old boy. Seven were shot execution style in three different houses, and the 8th victim, an adult, was found dead in his camper.
The bodies were first found by Bobby Jo Manley, sister of one of the victims Dana Rhoden, after she went to her sister's home to feed the pets. The authorities came to know about the massacre after they received a 911 call about two bodies that were inside a residence at Union Hill at around 7:51 am.
Before the officers reached the scene, Manley found two more bodies in the second home which was located on the same property.
James Manley, Dana and Bobby Jo's brother, went to check on Dana and found the third crime scene where three more bodies were discovered after the authorities arrived.
Dispatchers received another 911 call at 1:26 pm telling them about an eighth body, an adult male, at a fourth home in the nearby village of Piketon.
Three young children - who were aged 3-years-old, 6-months-old, and 4-days-old - were left unharmed in the massacre. The newborn was found in bed with her young mother.
The newborn and the 6-month-old children were put in protective custody and the 3-year-old was put under the guardianship of his own mother, who was not involved in any of the shootings.
The bodies of all the victims were taken to the Hamilton County Coroner's Office in Cincinnati, where autopsies found that 7 out of the 8 victims were shot multiple times.
Four of the victims were shot a maximum of three times, one was shot four times, two of them were shot five times, and the eighth was shot a total of nine times. The death certificates for the victims that were released on May 28 of that year showed that six of the victims were shot only in the head.
The other two victims, Christopher Rhoden Sr. and Dana Rhoden, were also shot in the head, but the only difference was that Christopher was also shot in the torso and limbs and Dana was also shot in her neck.
Some of the bodies had bruising which indicated that some of the victims were beaten pretty badly. Based on the number of gunshot wounds on the victims' bodies, an estimated total of 32 shots were said to have been fired during the massacre.
Then, finally, a year later on May 12, 2017, a SWAT team from the Franklin County Sheriff's Office raided a home in Pike County that is approximately 10 miles away from the site of the murders.
The authorities had initially stated that they were looking for a suspect in the murders, but it was clarified at a later time that they were looking for evidence related to the case and not the suspects.
Officers also looked through a property in Adams County that was once owned and sold recently by Edward "Jake" Wagner, who is an ex-boyfriend of one of the victims, Hanna Rhoden, and the father of their 3-year-old daughter. He is not the father of the 4-day-old newborn girl who was left alive in the killings.
On June 20 that same year, Ohio Police announced that they were looking for additional information on Jake Wagner, along with information on his parents Billy and Angela, and his brother George.
The family did something very odd when the authorities were closing in on them and that was to suddenly move to Alaska. Investigators found several conversations that the family has had that relate to vehicles, firearms, and ammunition.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced on November 13, 2018, that George "Billy" Wagner, Angela Wagner, George Wagner IV, and Edward "Jake" Wagner had been arrested and charged with planning and carrying out the murders.
The matriarch of the family, Fredericka Wagner, will be facing trial on July 29, 2019, on the charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.
The real question remains: Did the Wagner family kill 8 members of the Rhoden family because they lost a custody battle for Jake and Hanna's 3-year-old daughter?
The Piketon Family Murders will air on Oxygen at 7 pm PT on March 31.