Purchase of bulletproof vests at center of charges against Wagner matriarch

Wagner matriarch in Pike County court

PIKE COUNTY, OH (FOX19) - The scene in a Pike County courtroom Thursday afternoon could only be described as contentious as attorneys discussed new information in the Pike County massacre case.

Family matriarch Fredericka Wagner appeared in court for the second time on charges relating to the brutal, execution-style slayings of members of the Rhoden family.

Wagner is charged with one count of obstructing justice and one county of perjury.

Her son George “Billy” Wagner III, 47, his wife Angela, 48, and their sons Edward “Jake” Wagner, 26, and George Wagner IV, 27, are all charged with aggravated murder and face the possibility of the death penalty.

Thursday afternoon attorneys addressed for the first time accusations that Wagner lied to the grand jury.

READ MORE: Pike County grandmothers in court for roles in Rhoden family slayings

Pike County Prosecutor Rob Junk and Special Prosecuting Attorney Angela Canepa say Fredericka Wagner lied on the stand about the purchase of bulletproof vests found in her home during a police raid.

There was tension from the moment the judge asked if both parties are satisfied with the handling of previously filed motions thus far in the case.

Wagner’s defense attorneys James Owen and Charles Koenig expressed their displeasure that their ‘demand for discovery’ had not been met.

WATCH LIVE: Billy Wagner's mom Fredericka is in court for her first pretrial hearing. She faces charges for obstruction of justice and perjury. READ MORE: https://bit.ly/2VIzIEA

Posted by FOX19 on Thursday, January 10, 2019

They argued they’d requested transcripts of Wagner’s testimony in front of a grand jury that happened before they were hired. The attorneys argue the transcripts will provide context of Wagner’s answers and the questions asked during her testimony.

Owen also brought to light that Wagner’s claims that she has impaired hearing and was having difficulty understanding questions at the time of her testimony that he says led to the obstruction and perjury charges.

“She’s a decent person who’s falsely being accused of being on the wrong side of the law,” Owen stated.

Canepa argued Owen had not requested transcripts, but confirmation on the testimony leading to the charges against Wagner. She said she handed over a disk that contained the contents of the demand for discovery Thursday morning.

Owen requested a transcript be provided as soon as possible and the judge set a deadline of Jan. 31 barring any delays.

The judge said he may need time to review the transcripts before they are made available to the defense.

During the back and forth between attorneys it was revealed two bulletproof vests were seized by officials in May and were found in Wagner’s son’s room inside her home.

Owen also requested all documents and evidence relating to when the bulletproof vests were found and purchased.

In addition, the pretrial hearing addressed a petition filed Nov. 29 to modify the terms of Wagner’s house arrest so she can return to work at Crystal Springs Home, which houses people with developmental disabilities.

Thursday, Owen announced an addition to the petition that would include attending church services at a church on Mt. Edna Road, less than two miles from Wagner’s home.

Prosecutors said they’d like to inspect both places and were given a Jan. 31 deadline to do so.

Canepa said the prosecution is under the impression Wagner has possibly not worked at Crystal Springs in three years and only comes in occasionally to hand out bonus checks. They also say they have reason to believe Wagner was no longer attending the church.

The judge said that if he were to grant Wagner permission to work and attend church services he’d like specific days she would be out of the home.

Owen said he, Koenig and Wagner would comply with all requests by the judge.

“Fredericka is an honest, decent, law abiding citizen who is falsely accused of being on the wrong side of the law she doesn’t want to create anything that would create any suspicion to the contrary,” Owen said.

Owen also expressed the defense’s desire for a quick trial date so that Wagner could begin writing cards to her loved ones again.

He said Wagner has not had any inappropriate contact with her accused family members either directly or indirectly in the time since the indictment.

Prosecutors requested that a condition of no direct or indirect contact with the accused Wagners and Rita Newcomb be added as a condition of her bail.

The judge also announced Wagner’s bail be moved from government funding to self-pay.

At the end of the hearing Canepa requested a gag order in the case so that no parties speak to the media ahead of the trial. Owen quickly opposed the order.

“The day the news conference was issued they held a big news conference, they put out all this false information, they made false allegations about Fredericka, and at some point in time, not now, but at some point in time we may want to counter that. So I absolutely oppose it," Owen said. "After they taint the jury pool and put out all sorts of things we think aren’t true, now they want a gag order. We haven’t abused anything, we’ve complied with everything we’ve tried to be as reasonable as we can. I just don’t think there’s any need for it in this case and at some point in time we may want to talk to the press to correct the record.”

Canepa stated that the only thing said to any members of the media was the announcement of the indictments. She also said the state does not plan to speak on the case.

The judge asked both parties to submit their arguments for or against the gag order and he would review them.

Wagner’s next appearance in court will be her second pretrial hearing March 28 at 1:30 p.m.

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