Written By: Ishton W. Morton – November 15th, 2018
As found in the account of Jeremiah 17:9 King James Version of Bible; “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”
Subsequently, on November 13th, 2018 The Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader, and Pike County Prosecutor Rob Junk announced a husband, wife, and their two adult sons were arrested for the murders of eight people in rural Pike County.
Accordingly, George “Billy” Wagner III, age 47, Angela Wagner, age 48, George Wagner IV, age 27, and Edward “Jake” Wagner, age 26, of South Webster, were each charged with eight counts of aggravated murder with death penalty specifications. Additionally, these eight counts represent each victim that was found dead back on April 22nd, 2016.
Attorney General DeWine continued to say; “We promised the victims’ families that the day would come when this case would be solved, and today is that day.”
He added, “The indictments allege that 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.”
Although it is thought that their plans were extremely sophisticated, in my humble opinion they were simply evil, deceitful and desperately wicked beyond all other things.
Nonetheless, the Wagner’s are accused of killing seven members of the Rhoden family, plus the fiancée of one of the Rhoden victims, at four different Pike County homes.
According to records, killed were Christopher Rhoden Sr., age 40, his ex-wife Dana Manley Rhoden, age 37, their three children, Hanna May Rhoden, age 19, Christopher Rhoden Jr., age 16, and Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, age 20. Also Frankie Rhoden’s fiancée, Hannah, “Hazel” Gilley, age 20, was killed, along with the elder Christopher Rhoden’s brother Kenneth Rhoden, age 44, and Cousin Gary Rhoden, age 38.
Amazingly, most of the victims were killed as they slept. Three young children at home during the time(s) of these murders were left physically unharmed.
Authorities arrested the suspects without incident. They were indicted this week by members of a Pike County grand jury who have been examining evidence in the case since July.
Incidentally, the indictments were filed less than a week after authorities confirmed the existence of a homemade firearm suppressor believed to have been built by the suspects.
According to Attorney General DeWine, “This, along with a great deal of other investigative findings, led us to these indictments and arrests today. The Wagner’s were friends with the Rhodens and had been for years. They knew the layouts of the Rhodens’ 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.”
Moreover, the Wagner’s are facing a series of additional charges including conspiracy, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, tampering with evidence, unlawful possession of a dangerous ordinance, forgery, unauthorized use of property, interception of wire, oral, or electronic communications, obstructing justice, and aggravated burglary.
Thusly, these indictments alleged that the suspects purchased ammunition, a magazine clip, brass catcher(s), and a bug detector in preparation for the crimes. Furthermore, they allegedly obtained and shared information about the physical layouts of the victims’ properties, their habits and routines, sleeping locations, and countersurveillance devices present on their properties, including pets.
Consequently, the indictments accuse the Wagner’s of tampering with phones, cameras, a silencer, shell casings, and parts of a home security system.
Unbelievably, Jake Wagner is also charged with unlawful sexual conduct with a minor for having sexual contact with Hanna May Rhoden when she was 15 years old and he was 20 years old. Jake Wagner is the father of Hanna May Rhoden’s older daughter, who was staying with the Wagner’s on the night the homicides took place. Seemingly, all four suspects are accused of forging custody documents.
According to Sheriff Charles Reader; “I made a promise to the victims’ families and to the people of Pike County that we would solve this, no matter how long it took.” In his lamentation he continued to say; “I want to thank Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and his team for their continued commitment to this case. It’s been tough to be patient at times, but we kept our eye on the goal – justice for the victims.”
“We have never stopped working to find the people responsible for these savage crimes, and our sympathies continue to be with the victims’ families,” said Prosecutor Junk. “There is still a lot of hard work ahead of us, but we will continue to fight to hold these alleged killers accountable.”
A copy of the indictments filed against Billy, Angela, George, and Jake Wagner can be found here.
Also arrested today were Angela Wagner’s mother, Rita Newcomb, and Billy Wagner’s mother, Fredericka Wagner.
Both Rita Newcomb, 65, of South Webster, and Fredericka Wagner, 76, of Lucasville, are facing felony charges of obstructing justice and perjury for allegedly misleading investigators over the course of the investigation. Newcomb is also charged with forgery.
Their indictments can be found here.
The six arrests are the result of a joint investigation led by the Ohio Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) and the Pike County Sheriff’s Office. The cases will be prosecuted by the Pike County Prosecutor’s Office and the Ohio Attorney General’s Special Prosecutions Section acting as special assistant prosecutors.
Throughout the investigation, authorities estimate that they conducted tens of thousands of hours of investigative work; followed more than 1,100 tips from the public; conducted 550 interviews; tested more than 700 items of evidence; and served more than 200 subpoenas, search warrants, and court orders.
Several dozen state, local and federal agencies assisted in the investigation, including the Adams County Sheriff’s Office, Buckeye State Sheriffs’ Association, Butler County Sheriff’s Office, Chillicothe Police Department, Clark County Prosecutor’s Office, Columbus Division of Police, Delaware County Sheriff’s Office, Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office, Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office, Ohio Air National Guard, Ohio Crisis Response Team, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, Ohio Department of Taxation, Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission, Ohio State Highway Patrol, Pickaway County Sheriff’s Office, Piketon Police Department, Portsmouth Police Department, Ross County Sheriff’s Office, Scioto County Prosecutor’s Office, Scioto County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. 23 Major Crimes Task Force, Warren County Prosecutor’s Office, Warren County Sheriff’s Office, Waverly Police Department, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Customs and Border Patrol, Drug Enforcement Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio, and U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
Nearly two dozen law enforcement agencies from 10 different states and Canada also assisted with the investigation.
Anyone with additional information related to the murders should call BCI at 1-855-BCI-OHIO (224-6446) or the Pike County Sheriff’s Office at 740-947-2111.
An indictment is merely an allegation and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.