Arraignments scheduled for 4 charged in Pike County massacre

Arraignments scheduled for 4 charged in Pike County massacre
Photo: The Wagner family from left to right: George "Billy Wagner III, Angela Wagner, George Wagner IV and Edward "Jake" Wagner. (Photo: FOX19 NOW)

PIKE COUNTY, OH (FOX19) - Arraignments have been scheduled next week for four members of the Wagner family facing capital murder charges in Rhoden family massacre.

Edward “Jake” Wagner is set to appear at 9 a.m. Tuesday in Pike County Municipal Court.

His father, George Wagner IV is expected to face the judge at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

His mother and Billy Wagner’s wife, Angela Wagner, is due in the same court at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.

The final member of the Wagner family charged with aggravated murder in the execution-style slayings of the eight Rhoden family members will be in court the following week.

George “Billy” Wagner III will appear at 1:30 p.m. Dec. 4.

READ MORE: Pike County massacres

They all face aggravated murder charges and other counts that carry the possibility of a death sentence if they are convicted.

Their family attorney has said they will be vindicated.

All four members of the Wagner family must be separately arraigned and likely will be separately tried because they face the possibility of the death penalty.

Authorities announced the arrests last week, more than two years after eight members the Pike County family were massacred execution-style in their homes.

The Rhodens were found in four separate trailers at two locations near Piketon on April 22, 2016.

The slayings are considered the state’s most complex homicide investigation to date, resulting in more than 1,000 tips, hundreds of people interviewed and dozens of search warrants, officials said Tuesday.

Timeline: Rhoden family murder investigation

The victims are Christopher Rhoden, 40; his older brother, Kenneth Rhoden, 44; his cousin, Gary Rhoden; his former wife, Dana Lynn Rhoden, 37, and their children: Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 20, Hanna Mae Rhoden, 19, Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16, and Frankie’s fiancé, Hannah Gilley.

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.

Two babies and a small child who were in the homes were not harmed.

Hanna Rhoden had a child with Jake Wagner, her longtime boyfriend. Their daughter, Sophia, was 3 at the time of the killings but not there when they occurred, turned 5 on Sunday.

When asked about her whereabouts the day of the arrests, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine would only say children services was now involved.

Jake Wagner also is charged with unlawful sexual conduct with a minor for having sexual contact with Hanna Rhoden when she was 15 and he was 20 years old.

A custody dispute over that little girl is believed to be at the heart of this case.

DeWine has said an “obsession” with custody and control of the children played a role in the murders.

While searching the crime scenes, officials have said they found marijuana “grow operations,” including one with more than 100 marijuana plants.

DeWine and Pike County Sheriff Charlie Reader won’t say if the drugs contributed to the motive, but DeWine did say drugs were an “undercurrent” in the case, along with money.

Also charged in the case is Billy Wagner’s mother Fredericka Wagner and Angela’s mother Rita Newcomb.

They are accused of covering up the crime by forging custody papers related to Jake and Hanna’s daughter,

The two are free after posting bond and are on house arrest.

A special prosecutor said during their bond hearing that a confidential informant told investigators the four Wagners charged with killing the Rhodens met at Fredericka Wagner’s home and talked about what they would do if anyone was arrested.

The discussion included escaping and getting revenge against investigators, including the Pike County sheriff, DeWine and a BCI agent.

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