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Who is Edward Jake Wagner? Killer pleads guilty to 8 murder counts in 2016 Pike County Rhoden family massacre

The death of the eight victims, all execution-style, came to be known as Ohio's infamous 'Pike County massacre'. On April 21, almost five years to the day of the murders, Edward 'Jake' Wagner pleaded guilty to killing his girlfriend and her family
Jake Wagner avoided the death penalty by pleading guilty to all seven murders of the Rhoden family and Hannah Gilley (Ohio Attorney General's office)
Jake Wagner avoided the death penalty by pleading guilty to all seven murders of the Rhoden family and Hannah Gilley (Ohio Attorney General's office)

WAVERLY, OHIO: On Thursday, April 22, 2021, Edward "Jake" Wagner, a member of the notorious Wagner family, pleaded guilty to eight counts of aggravated murder. The latest reports reveal that he changed his plea from not guilty five years ago. As he stood in the Pike County courtroom and pleaded guilty to killing eight people of the Rhoden family, including the mother of his daughter, a surreal realization dawns upon one - the day marked the fifth anniversary of the fatal day that the eight members were shot to death. 

For the longest time, the Pike County shootings on the night of April 21, 2016, remained unsolved. The death of the eight victims - all execution-style - was a mystery that investigators could not figure out. It was also the subject of an Oxygen documentary. 


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Wagner and his brother, George, along with their parents, Billy and Angela, were all accused of killing seven members of the Rhoden family and Hannah Gilley in 2016. Investigators reportedly said that the killings were an elaborate and long-planned execution plot to get rid of anyone who might hinder him from getting custody and control of his child.

According to the latest reports, the prosecution will withdraw the death penalty. The state is also recommending eight consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole for the murders as part of the plea. In addition to that, reports reveal that there's also another 160 years on other charges and gun specifications.

Who is Jake Wagner?

The judge reportedly asked Jake if he understood that he will be spending the rest of his life in prison and replied that he did. "I am guilty, your honor," he said. And consequently, he had pleaded guilty to all 23 charges originally filed against him.

George, Billy and Angela still face the murder and other charges but as part of Wagner's plea agreement, they will no longer face the death penalty as long as he testifies against them. Wagner also reportedly pleaded guilty to charges of aggravated burglary, possession of a dangerous ordnance, unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, forgery, tampering with evidence, obstruction of justice and others.

Wagner was an ex-boyfriend of victim Hanna Rhoden and father of her 3-year-old daughter, but not the father of her 4-day-old daughter who was unharmed during the killings. 

According to a report online, Billy Wagner’s attorney, Mark Collins, said in a statement, "Any time you have a multiple co-defendant case in the criminal justice system, it is not surprising that someone makes a deal and agrees to cooperate. We do not know the extent of cooperation or what information was given. Once we receive that information, we will assess and advise our client appropriately. We understand that Jake Wagner’s attorneys are doing what they feel is best for their client, and we will do the same for our client."

On Thursday afternoon, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost released the following statement, "I am incredibly proud of our team at the Bureau of Criminal Investigation whose dedication, perseverance and expertise lead to today’s plea. The scope of this crime and subsequent investigation surpasses any other in Ohio’s history. The dedicated men and women of BCI rose to the challenge in the pursuit of justice for the victims - and never gave up. BCI’s work spans countless long nights, weeks and years and will continue until all responsible for these crimes are held accountable. Today's hearing finally brings some degree of closure to the surviving family members, and I pray that they might find peace in the face of this horror."