Pike County Massacre: 3 years later

Six members of the Wagner family are facing charges in the execution-style slayings of eight members of the Rhoden family

Pike County Murders 3 years later

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Monday morning marked the third anniversary of Ohio’s most complex homicide investigation.

Eight members of the Rhoden family were found dead April 22, 2016, in their Pike County homes.

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

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The victims are family patriarch 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.

More than two and a half years went by before authorities made arrests in the case.

November 13, 2018, six people with blood ties to the Rhodens through a young child were arrested and charged in connection with the murders.

4 members of the Wagner family were arrested in connection with the murder of the Rhoden family in 2016 in Pike County. (Ohio Attorney General's Office)
4 members of the Wagner family were arrested in connection with the murder of the Rhoden family in 2016 in Pike County. (Ohio Attorney General's Office) (Source: (Ohio Attorney General's Office))

George "Billy” Wagner III, 47, Angela Wagner, 48, George Wagner IV, 27, and Edward “Jake” Wagner, 26, all were taken into custody on aggravated murder charges with the possibility for the death penalty.

Billy’s mother Fredericka Wagner, and Angela’s mother, Rita Newcomb, are charged with obstruction of justice and perjury.

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. (Source: (Ohio Attorney General Mike Dewine))

The young child connecting the two families is now-5-year-old Sophia Wagner, the daughter of Hanna Mae Rhoden and Jake Wagner.

Ohio Governor and then-Attorney General Mike DeWine said the child’s custody was a factor in the elaborately planned crime.

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“After extensive joint investigation – these individuals are now in custody for committing these heartless, ruthless cold blooded murders,” DeWine said. “Many were killed as they slept. All eight victims were killed in cold blood. They were brutally and viciously executed.”

All of the Rhodens were shot in the head -- most several times in three mobile homes on Union Hill Road and at another home a few miles away, according to autopsy records released in September.

Christopher Rhoden was among the first killed and was awake when he was confronted by at least one person with a gun, the reports showed.

He was shot a total of 9 times, and at least one bullet went through a door before hitting him, according to reports.

Three children were at two of the trailers during the killings, but they were spared.

  • Brentley Rhoden 4: His father was Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden
  • Brentley’s half-brother, Ruger Lee, who was 6 months old. Ruger’s parents were Frankie Rhoden and Hannah Gilley. The couple was engaged to be married.
  • Kyle Mae, 5 days old: She was the newborn daughter of Hanna Mae Rhoden and was found next to her dead mother.

Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader said Sophia was in the care of the Wagners at the time of the killings.

The four members of the immediate Wagner family charged with murder face the death penalty.

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

They’ve made multiple quick court appearances in the Pike County Courthouse since their arrest as the case progresses toward a trial.

Trial dates are set for the Wagner grandmothers: July 8 through July 10 for Newcomb and July 29 for Wagner.

“It will be several years before these cases are concluded,” Pike County Prosecutor Rob Junk said. “We all have a lot of hard work ahead of us.”

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