Suspects in Pike County massacre attends one of the victims’ funerals

Suspects in Pike County massacre attends one of the victims’ funerals

According to recent evidence, an Ohio father and his two adult sons who are accused of murdering eight members of a rival family in 2016 over a custody dispute went to the funerals of their victims.

The 30-year-old George Wagner IV is the first member of his family to go on trial for the alleged role he played in the murder of the Rhoden family in Pike County along with his mother Angela Wagner, father George “Billy” Wagner III, brother Edward “Jake,” and father.

According to testimony on Friday, at least three Wagner family members attended the Rhoden family’s funerals less than a week after they were murdered as they slept.

On April 22, 2016, eight members of the Rhoden family were discovered shot to death at several homes in Pike County, Ohio. The Wagner family was not charged with the killings until 2018.

On Friday, James “Cody” Manley, a Rhoden family member, testified that he found his Rhoden and Hannah “Hazel” Gilley, both 20 years old, shot to death in their room.

Gilley had been breastfeeding their six-month-old child when she was shot in the head and face; the infant was discovered covered in blood on Gilley’s chest.

He said on Friday that he “simply froze.” “I saw things I didn’t want to see.”

Manley attended the burial of 38-year-old Gary Rhoden, another relative who had perished in the murders, less than a week after the horrifying mass murder, and he recalled seeing the Wagner family there.

On April 27, 2016, George Wagner, his father Billy, his brother Jake, and the Cincinnati Enquirer were seen entering the Greenup, Kentucky, funeral home.

The first of the family’s eight funerals was for Gary Rhoden. At the funerals for the other victims, Manley claimed to have seen the Wagners as well.

Manley is the son of Dana Manley-brother Rhoden’s James and sister-in-law April Manley, who lost their lives in the killings. His cousin Frankie Rhoden, who was also shot dead, and he were great friends.

The Wagners spent months preparing the murders and targeted some of the victims, but “others regrettably were slain because they happened to be there,” according to special prosecutor Angela Canepa, who recounted the grisly story when the trial started last month.

While George Wagner IV is not thought to have murdered anybody, he is claimed to have taken part in the murders by casting a vote in support of them, according to the prosecution. Four members of the Wagner family are accused of carrying out the killings.

The killings, which were reportedly organized so that his brother Edward “Jake” Wagner and their mother would be granted exclusive custody of Jake’s daughter, who is shared with Hanna Rhoden, have been admitted guilt by both.

Jake Wagner attempted to persuade Hanna, 19, to agree to split custody of their child, but she refused, and he shot her many times as she slept close to their infant.

In 2015, months before the deaths, Rhoden stated in a personal Facebook post, “I won’t sign paperwork ever.” “They’ll have to murder me first,”

The victims were all shot numerous times in the head as they slept, and Jake said he was directly responsible for five of the killings.

The massacre also claimed the lives of Hanna’s mother Dana Rhoden, 37, father Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40, and brothers Clarence, 20, and Christopher Jr., 16.

Hannah Gilley, Clarence ‘Frankie’ Rhoden’s fiancée, Kenneth Rhoden, Christopher Srbrother, .’s and Gary Rhoden, a relative, were also killed by gunfire in four separate residences in rural Ohio.

Three childs who were present at the crime scene—daughter Hanna’s Kyle, who was five days old at the time, and Clarence’s boys Brentley, 4, and Ruger Lee, 6 months—were spared.

The violent killings rocked the isolated Ohio county and sparked one of the biggest criminal investigations in state history, which more than two years later resulted in the Wagners’ arrest.

The Wagner family has been charged with four members participating in the heinous killings.

George IV’s defense team maintains that he was not involved in the killings and that no one was shot or killed that night in 2016.

In relation to their participation in the murders, his mother, Angela Jo Wagner, and his younger brother, Edward “Jake” Wagner, entered guilty pleas last year.

In addition to eight counts of murder, Jake Wagner was found guilty of 15 additional offenses, including conspiracy, burglary, possession of dangerous weapons, and tampering with evidence.

At a later time, the father, George “Billy” Wagner III, is anticipated to go on trial. The accusations against him have been met with a not guilty plea.

The admissions of Wagner IV’s mother and brother from a year ago, according to his attorneys, show he didn’t shoot and kill anybody. Wagner IV has also entered a not guilty plea.

In a hearing in December 2021, Special Prosecutor Angela Canepa concurred with the defense that Wagner IV did not commit murder.

However, in the state of Ohio, anybody convicted of aggravated murder who assisted in its planning or cover-up faces the death penalty.

After accepting a plea agreement that excluded the potential of the death penalty for him and his family members, Jake was given eight complete life sentences without the chance of release in 2021.

While his mother admitted to multiple counts of aggravated burglary, tampering with evidence, and other offenses, he admitted guilt to 23 felony charges, including eight murder charges.

The future trial is scheduled to include Jake and his mother, who both consented to testify against the other defendants.

The victims were all shot numerous times in the head as they slept, and Jake said he was directly responsible for five of the killings.

The massacre also claimed the lives of Hanna’s mother Dana Rhoden, 37, father Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40, and brothers Clarence, 20, and Christopher Jr., 16.

George Wagner IV

Edward 'Jake' Wagner

Six years passed before the cold-blooded conspiracy, which was set up to kill everybody who stood in Jake’s path of obtaining custody of his daughter, could be unraveled.

When Hanna was 15, he started seeing her when she was only 13 years old. After their relationship ended, she had a second child with another man.

George 'Billy' Wagner III

Angela Wagner

Since Jake was caring for Sophia at the time of the killings, he started to put pressure on her over the custody of their daughter.

According to investigators, the family purchased a bug detector, brass catcher, a magazine clip, and ammo to prepare for the crimes.

They are said to have built a homemade silencer that was used in the shootings, installed “counter-surveillance devices” on the premises, tampered with phones, cameras, and security system components, among other things.

On the computer, fake papers were discovered that claimed Hanna Rhoden had consented to joint custody.

Six victims’ phones, a recording device, and trail cameras were all taken by the Wagners.

Christopher Sr., who had nine bullet wounds in his forearm, body, and face, was the only victim who was thought to have been conscious when they were shot.

A “muzzle stain” was found on his skull, according to the autopsy report, indicating that at some point a shot was fired while the pistol was pushed against him. His brother Gary was shot three times, twice in the head and once in the face.

Dana Rhoden was expertly shot five times, one from beneath her chin and four times around her head.

She was living in a trailer with Hanna and Christopher Jr., both of whom had several gunshot wounds to the head.

Although their six-month-old baby was resting between the pair when Frankie Rhoden and Hannah Gilley were shot in the head, they were unharmed.

Kenneth Rhoden was only shot once, striking his right eye, whereas Hannah was shot five times overall, with one bullet striking her left eye.

After the gunshots, a woman hurriedly called 911 and said, “I believe my brother-in-law is dead.” She sounded out of breath. The home is covered with blood.

“The home is covered with blood.” My brother-in-law is in the bedroom and seems to have been severely beaten.

At 8.21 am, when seven of the deceased were discovered shot to death in the head “execution style,” crime scene investigators were initially dispatched to Union Hill Road.

The first three deaths were discovered in residences only a few miles apart on a road with few people, while the eighth body, a man, was discovered shortly before 2:00 p.m. in a property within a 30-mile radius.

Following the murders, the Wagner family relocated to Kenai, Alaska, with Jake Wagner bringing his daughter along. However, in 2018, after running out of money, the family returned to Ohio. In that year’s November, they were taken into custody.

The family said at the time that they were relocating to avoid what they considered to be unjust suspicion that they were the murderers.

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