Pike County massacre: Wagner family patriarch waives extradition

George "Billy" Wagner waives extradition in a Lexington, Kentucky courtroom

LEXINGTON, KY. (FOX19) - The first of four suspects charged with killing a family of eight in a shooting massacre more than two years ago faced a judge Wednesday.

George “Billy” Wagner waived extradition in a brief appearance in Lexington District Court in Fayette County, Kentucky.

“Yeah, I’ll go back to Ohio,” he told the judge.

Attorney General Mike DeWine was pleased Wagner wasn’t going to fight extradition so the case could continue to proceed without delay.

It’s not clear when Wagner will be driven back to the Butler County Jail in Ohio.

He was taken into custody in Kentucky on Tuesday morning by agents with Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation(BCI) and deputies with the Pike County Sheriff’s Office.

Wagner, 47, his wife, Angela Wagner, 48, and their two grown sons, George Wagner IV, 27, and Edward “Jake” Wagner, 26, are each charged with eight counts of aggravated murder with the possibility for the death penalty.

Billy Wagner and his wife likely will be in court for their arraignment in Pike County the week after Thanksgiving, Prosecutor Rob Junk said.

His office is trying to line up attorneys for them now.

Six charged in connection to the Rhoden family massacre.
Six charged in connection to the Rhoden family massacre.

The eight counts represent each victim found dead on April 22, 2016.

The Wagners 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.

Killed were: Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40, his ex-wife Dana Manley Rhoden, 37, and their three children, Hanna May Rhoden, 19, Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16, and Clarence "Frankie" Rhoden, 20. Frankie Rhoden's fiancée, Hannah "Hazel" Gilley, 20, was also killed, along with the elder Christopher Rhoden's brother Kenneth Rhoden, 44, and cousin Gary Rhoden, 38.

Timeline: Rhoden family murder investigation

Eight members of the Rhoden family were killed in Pike Co. in April 206.
Eight members of the Rhoden family were killed in Pike Co. in April 206.

Most of the victims were shot to death as they slept. Three young children at home at the time of the murders were left physically unharmed.

The Wagners “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,” Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said when he announced their arrests Tuesday.

With Billy Wagner in custody, authorities also arrested the rest of his family at separate locations in Ohio.

The family was indicted this week by a Pike County grand jury that began hearing evidence in the case in July, DeWine said.

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.

Wagner to be extradited to Ohio

READ MORE: Pike County Massacre

"This, along with a great deal of other investigative findings, led us to these indictments and arrests today," said Attorney General DeWine. "The Wagners 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."

The Wagners face additional charges of aggravated burglary, forgery, conspiracy, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, tampering with evidence, unlawful possession of a dangerous ordinance, unauthorized use of property, interception of wire, oral, or electronic communications and obstructing justice.

The indictments allege that the suspects purchased ammunition, a magazine clip, brass catcher(s), and a bug detector in preparation for the crimes; obtained and shared information about the physical layouts of the victims' properties, their habits and routines, sleeping locations, and counter-surveillance devices on their properties, including pets.

The indictments accuse the Wagners of tampering with phones, cameras, a silencer, shell casings, and parts of a home security system.

Dissecting the Wagner arrests

Jake Wagner is also charged with unlawful sexual conduct with a minor. He’s accused of having sexual contact with Hanna May Rhoden when she was 15 years old and he was 20.

Jake Wagner is the father of Hanna May Rhoden’s older daughter, Sophia, then 3, who was staying with the Wagners on the night the homicides took place.

“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 Pike County Prosecutor Rob Junk. “There is still a lot of hard work ahead of us, but we will continue to fight to hold these alleged killers accountable.”

Angela Wagner’s mother, Rita Newcomb, and Billy Wagner’s mother, Fredericka Wagner, also were arrested.

Both Rita Newcomb, 65, of South Webster, and Fredericka Wagner, 76, of Lucasville, face felony charges of obstructing justice and perjury for allegedly misleading investigators over the course of the investigation. Newcomb is also charged with forgery.

Both are held without bond at the Pickaway County Jail. They are scheduled to make their first appearance in Pike County Common Pleas Court at 2 p.m. Thursday.

Fredericka Wagner’s lawyer, James Owen, said any reasonable person would allow her to be released given her background.

She is in her 70s, doesn’t have a criminal record and attends church, he claimed.

The idea that she would do what they have alleged she did is “pretty outrageous,” he said.

Current Ohio Attorney General and Governor-elect Mike DeWine announced Fredericka Wagner, Billy Wagner's mother, and Rita Newcomb, Angela Wagner's mother, have also been arrested for covering up their children's crimes.
Current Ohio Attorney General and Governor-elect Mike DeWine announced Fredericka Wagner, Billy Wagner's mother, and Rita Newcomb, Angela Wagner's mother, have also been arrested for covering up their children's crimes. ((Ohio Attorney General Mike Dewine))

All the suspects are being held at separate jails without bond.

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.

Nearly two dozen law enforcement agencies from 10 different states and Canada assisted.

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.

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