Pike County massacre: Suspects in brutal execution of 8 members of ONE FAMILY attended victims’ funeral

Pike County massacre: Suspects in brutal execution of 8 members of ONE FAMILY  attended victims’ funeral
Members of the Wagner family, including George Wagner VI, have been accused of killing eight members of the Rhoden family (Office of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Oxygen)

PIKE COUNTY, OHIO: A Ohio man and his two grown sons, who are accused of executing eight members of a rival family in 2016 over a little girl’s custody, were seen attending the victims’ funeral.

George Wagner IV, 30, who allegedly carried out the massacre with the help of his father George 'Billy' Wagner III, his brother Edward 'Jake' Wagner, and his mother Angela Wagner, is on trial in a Pike County courtroom for the gruesome killings. On Friday, September 30, the court heard that he saw at least three members of the Wagner family attending the funeral of the Rhoden Family, just a week after killing them in their sleep.

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James "Cody" Manley, a family member of the Rhodens, took the stand on Friday and revealed that he found his cousin Frankie Rhoden and fiancé Hannah "Hazel" Gilley, both 20, dead in their room on April 22, 2016. Gilley was nursing her six-month-old baby when she was shot five times in the head and face. "I just froze," Manley said according the The Daily Mail. He added, "I saw things I didn't want to see."

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From left to right - George Wagner IV, George
George Wagner IV, George "Billy" Wagner III, Angela Jo Wagner, and Edward ‘Jake’ Wagner (R) are three of the accused from the Wagner family who targetted the Rhoden family (Office of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine)

Manley further revealed he attended the funeral of 38-year-old Gary Rhoden, another cousin who had been killed in the shooting that night, where he encountered three family members of the Wagner family. He testified that he even saw the Wagners at the funeral of other Rhoden family members. The claims made by Manley were backed by archived photos published by the Cincinnati Enquirer which capture Wagner, Edward and George walking into the Greenup, Kentucky, funeral home on April 27, 2016.

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The memebrs of Rhoden family who were murdered in 2016 (Pike County Sheriff's Office/Ohio Attorney General's Bureau of Criminal Investigation)
The members of Rhoden family who were murdered in 2016 while they were asleep (Pike County Sheriff's Office/Ohio Attorney General's Bureau of Criminal Investigation)

The Pike County massacre refers to an incident that occurred on April 21, 2016, when eight family members were shot dead at different residences in Pike, County, Ohio. However, the Wagner family was not implicated in the massacre until 2018. It took more than six years and about $1M dollars worth of investigations to bring justice to the dead Rhoden family members. The trial against the Wagner family started in September.

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At the initial court hearing, special prosecutor Angela Canepa argued that the Wagner family spent months planning the killing and targeted only a few selective members of the family but others got killed as they came in their way. Prosecutors claimed that the Wagners killed Hanna, both her parents — Christopher Rhoden Sr, 40, and his ex wife, Dana Manley Rhoden, 37 — along with her siblings, Christopher Rhoden Jr, 16, and Clarence Rhoden, 20. Other murder victims were Clarence’s fiancee, Hannah Gilley, 20, Christopher’s brother Kenneth Rhoden, 44, and his 38-year-old cousin Gary. The victims were shot in the head multiple times as they were sleeping peacefully. The suspects reportedly used guns with silencers for the killing spree.

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George Wagner IV allegedly killed eight members of a family with the help of his family (Office of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine)
George Wagner IV allegedly killed eight members of a family with the help of his family (Office of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine)

After the years of investigation, the deputies got to know that Edward orchestrated the gruesome massacre just to get custody of his daughter. He dated Hannah when she was just 13 and got her pregnant with his daughter at the age of 15. However, Hanna soon ended the relationship and got pregnant with another man’s child. However, Edward kept pressuring her for the custody of their daughter, Sophie.

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"I won't sign papers ever," Rhoden wrote in a private Facebook message in 2015, months before the killings, adding, "They will have to kill me first." Investigators have even found forged custody documents on Jake’s computer which showed that Hanna has agreed to joint custody of their daughter.

Edward  pleaded guilty in 2021 to killing five of the victims and is expected to testify against his brother, Wagner, who was present at the scene but didn’t pull the trigger. Angela, who helped plot the mass murder but did not participate in the killings, also pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate against her son. George has pleaded not guilty.

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