Wagner Family, Indicted in Rhoden Family Murders, Meticulously Planned Killings

Zachary Stieber
By Zachary Stieber
November 14, 2018US News
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Details of four members of the same family charged in the murders of eight members of another family in Pike County, Ohio, are beginning to emerge.

The suspects are George Wagner III, 47; Angela Wagner, 48; George Wagner IV, 27; and Edward Wagner, 26.

Each one was charged with eight counts of aggravated murder with the potential for convictions to lead to the death penalty.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said at a news conference on Nov. 13 that the Wagners meticulously planned out the murders before conducting them in the dark, killing most of the victims while they were sleeping.

George Billy Wagner Angela Wagner
These undated images released by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, show (L-R), George “Billy” Wagner III, Angela Wagner, George Wagner IV, and Edward “Jake” Wagner. Authorities announced the murder charges, on Nov. 13, 2018. (Ohio Attorney General’s Office/AP)

“These suspects developed a calculated plan to execute the victims in the middle of the night and then carefully cover their tracks. Their alleged plan was sophisticated, but not sophisticated enough for our team of investigators and prosecutors,” he said.

Having examined the evidence in the case since July, a Pike County grand jury indicted the Wagners.

“The Wagners were friends with the Rhodens and had been for years. They knew the layouts of the Rhodens’s homes, and they knew the victims’ routines. It is our belief that the suspects used this knowledge to meticulously plan these horrendous, cold-blooded murders,” DeWine added.

The eight victims in Pike County were previously identified as Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40; his ex-wife Dana Rhoden, 37; their children Hanna Rhoden, 19; Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16; and Clarence Rhoden, 20; in addition to Clarence’s fiancée Hannah Gilley, 20; Christopher Rhoden Sr.’s brother Kenneth Rhoden, 44; and their cousin Gary Rhoden, 38.

rhoden family
The victims, seven of whom were part of the Rhoden family, with the eighth engaged to one of the Rhodens. (Ohio Attorney General’s Office)

Bought Ammunition, Obtained Information

The Wagners’ planning of the murders included purchasing ammunition, a magazine clip, brass catchers, and a bug detector. They also obtained information about the physical layout of each of the four houses they killed the Rhodens in, according to the indictments, and also knew the routines, sleeping locations, and countersurveillance devices on the properties.

The Wagners are also accused of tampering with phones, cameras, a silencer, shell casings, and parts of a home security system.

Along with the charges against the four Wagners, which include a litany of other charges such as conspiracy and forgery, officials said they arrested and charged the mothers of Angela Wagner and Billy Wagner with obstructing justice and perjury.

Edward Wagner, known as Jake, was also charged with unlawful sexual conduct since he was 20 years old when he had sexual contact with Hanna Rhoden when she was just 15 years old.

Ohio Family Killed
In this file photo, mourners gather around caskets for six of the eight members of the Rhoden family found shot April 22, 2016, at four properties near Piketon, Ohio, during funeral services at Scioto Burial Park in McDermott, Ohio, on May 3, 2016. (John Minchillo/AP Photo/File)

Moved to Alaska

The Wagners moved to Alaska in early 2017.

“Really the point to moving up here was to basically get into a better environment so they wouldn’t talk about us. Sophia is getting older, so she wouldn’t hear it,” Jake Wagner told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “And then it followed us here.”

Sophia was the daughter of Jake Wagner and Hanna Rhoden. She was not told that her mother died.

The family said they alerted law enforcement officials to the move, which officials disputed. They reportedly moved back to Ohio in May of this year.

Some of their Alaska neighbors were concerned after hearing their connection to the murders after the Wagners arrived last year but others said they weren’t.

“They seem like a normal family trying to make a living,” Brad Conklin told KTVA in 2017. “You’re innocent until proven guilty.”

After the charges were announced, he told the broadcaster he was surprised they were arrested. “(I)n the same aspect anybody can lie anymore,” Conklin said. “(I)t’s a crazy world we live in today.”

“You saw some reactions, you know, finally! They were arrested,” another neighbor, state Sen. Peter Micciche, told KTUU. “I think generally there’s some relief, although I think folks knew they were no longer in town. It’s comforting to know they won’t be coming back.”

 

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