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Pike County massacre: New trial date set for Jake Wagner

Updated: Jan. 11, 2021 at 10:07 AM EST
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PIKE COUNTY, Ohio (FOX19) - A new trial date is set for the youngest suspect in a family of four charged in the execution-style killings of a southwestern Ohio family.

Edward “Jake” Wagner’s trial is scheduled for Aug. 30, 2021, in the Pike County massacre, newly filed court records show.

Last month, Wagner, 28, waived his right to a speedy trial through October.

He is charged with aggravated murder and facing the potential death penalty along with three relatives: His father, George “Billy” Wagner III; his mother, Angela Wagner and his older brother, George Wagner IV.

All of the Wagners have pleaded not guilty and have been held at separate Ohio jails since their arrests more than two years ago, in November 2018.

READ MORE | Pike County Massacre

Jake Wagner was the ex-boyfriend of one of the victims, Hanna Mae Rhoden, 19.

Authorities have said the motive of the slayings stemmed in part over a custody dispute over a young daughter Jake Wagner and Hanna Rhoden had together.

Wagner’s attorneys are challenging ballistic and shoe impression evidence collected at the crime scenes, according to court motions they have filed.

At a hearing for Jake’s brother earlier this year, a special agent with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation testified there were three murder weapons and one of the guns, a Walther Colt 1911 .22 pistol, was the type Jake Wagner owned at one time.

According to autopsy records, the entire Rhoden family was shot in the head on April 22, 2016, most several times.

The victims in the massacre 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.

Frustration has been mounting due to several delays in the case and trials of Wagners.

A gag order has been issued in the case, preventing attorneys and law enforcement from discussing it.

Jake Wagner’s mother, Angela Wagner, has asked the court to consider moving the case out of Pike County to ensure she receives “a fair trial before a jury untainted by pre-trial publicity,” court records show.

Attorneys, however, have to try to seat a jury in Pike County before the venue can be changed, the judge has said.

If that becomes impossible, then the venue can be changed.

There are 27,772 residents in Pike County, according to the latest U.S. Census estimates available, from July 2019.

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