The trial about the Ohio man accused of assisting his family in a murder plot against other family has started
Pike County, Ohio – Prosecutors claimed Monday in the first trial tied to the 2016 killings that an Ohio man assisted his family in planning, carrying out, and covering up the murders of eight members of another family over a heated custody fight. The crimes occurred in 2016.
The charges against George Wagner IV, age 30, include the possibility that he assisted his family in a plot to murder the Rhoden family. In Pike County, eight people, seven adults and one teenager, were killed by gunfire. Wagner is accused of many counts of aggravated murder in addition to other accusations connected to conspiring with others and attempting to hide evidence.
According to the prosecution, Edward “Jake” Wagner, Wagner’s brother, and one of the victims, Hanna Rhoden, 19, were involved in a custody dispute over their young daughter. Rhoden is 19 years old.
The victims included Christopher Rhoden Sr., age 40; his ex-wife, Dana Rhoden, age 37; their three children, aged 16-year-old Christopher Jr., Hanna, and 20-year-old Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden; Clarence Rhoden’s fiancée, Hannah Gilley, age 20; Christopher Rhoden Srbrother, .’s Kenneth Rhoden, age 44; and Christopher Rhoden Srcousin, .’s Gary Rhoden, age 38
The child whose custody is at issue was not present at the crime site at the time of the slayings since she was staying with the Wagners at the time. Three infants and a toddler were discovered safe and sound next to the bodies of their deceased mothers.
Angela Canepa, a special prosecutor assigned to the case, stated during opening arguments on Monday that George Wagner IV was a participant “in one of the most terrible acts that has ever been done in the state of Ohio.” Canepa was speaking about the case involving George Wagner IV.
“He participated in planning, preparing, acquiring, executing, and covering up these crimes,” she said. “He was involved in all of these activities.”
He has entered a not guilty plea, but if he is found guilty, he might be sentenced to death.
In addition to the two Wagner brothers, their mother, Angela Wagner, and their father, George “Billy” Wagner III, have been charged with their murders as well. In addition, George “Billy” Wagner III has entered a not guilty plea.
In December of last year, Jake and Angela Wagner entered guilty pleas to the roles they played in the killings. Jake Wagner entered into a plea deal that would save him the death penalty in exchange for his confession that he was responsible for the deaths of five of the eight victims. Jake Wagner allegedly made a deal with prosecutors to testify against his other family members in exchange for the promise that they would not seek the death penalty in the instances in which they were involved. Angela Wagner entered a guilty plea in exchange for a sentence of thirty years in prison.
Canepa stated during Monday’s opening statements that Jake Wagner admitted that he was in love with Hanna Rhoden and that he was “very upset when they parted ways” and that Rhoden began dating people, thereby exposing their daughter to people that he and his family “didn’t approve of.” Canepa cited Wagner’s statement that he was “very upset when they parted ways.”
She stated that Jake Wagner elaborated on how his brother and dad conspired with each other over the course of several months in order to carry out their plan to murder the members of the Rhoden family.
Canepa referred to the Wagner family as being very “insular” and said that they collaborated on everything, including voting to kill the Rhodens and purchasing and arranging everything that was required to carry out their plot to kill them. He also said that they did everything together.
The defense has been working hard to dissociate George Wagner IV from his family and the plot to murder the Rhodens.
During the opening comments of the defense, defense counsel Richard Nash Jr. stated that Jake Wagner’s confession states that his brother “shot no one” and does not suggest that George Wagner IV was significantly involved in organizing the murders.
The fact that George is a Wagner, which he has no control over, does not make him a murderer, as Nash pointed out.
Daniella Silva is a reporter for NBC News. Her primary areas of coverage are education and the ways in which laws, regulations, and practices affect both children and teachers. Additionally, she writes about immigration issues.