Judge refused to dismiss aggravated murder charges against eldest Wagner son in Pike County massacre

Judge refused to dismiss aggravated murder charges against eldest Wagner son in Pike County massacre
Published: Dec. 22, 2021 at 6:24 AM EST|Updated: Dec. 22, 2021 at 11:45 AM EST
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PIKE COUNTY, Ohio (WXIX) - Judge Randy Deering denied the motion for the eight aggravated murder charges to be dismissed in the Pike County massacre case for the eldest Wagner son, George Wagner IV.

He is accused of taking part in the 2016 Pike County murders that left eight members of the Rhoden family dead.

George’s younger brother, Jake Wagner, and his mother, Angela, both pleaded guilty earlier this year for their roles in the execution-style murders.

George and his father, George “Billy” Wagner III, have pleaded not guilty.

Attorneys for Wagner IV said in court records the confessions of his mother and younger brother determine he didn’t shoot and kill any of the eight victims so he is not eligible for the death penalty.

Complete coverage: Pike County massacre

“Recently provided discovery makes it clear that George Washington Wagner IV did NOT shoot and kill any of the victims. Yet the State insists on proceeding with this case, a capital case, unless and until Jake Wagner testifies for the State to its satisfaction,” reads the filing by attorney Richard Nash.

“Thus, the State seeks to hold the death penalty over the head of George Wagner who did not kill anybody while it has struck a remarkable plea bargain with the actual killer of at least five of the victims who also shot a sixth victim.”

In court, Prosecutor Angie Canepa said the state is willing to agree George Wagner IV was not the shooter of any of the eight killed in 2016, pursuant to Jake Wagner’s plea offer.

Wagner’s attorneys are arguing the death penalty should be off the table because he didn’t shoot anyone.

The prosecution then said Jake did implicate George as being involved in the planning and execution of the shootings on the night in April 2016.

“It’s our argument that George never had the specific intent to kill,” his attorneys said. “The state made a deal with the devil, basically and now he’s the person that’s most responsible for this. He’s the actual killer. He’s the actual shooter. He’s the one who snuck into these homes in the middle of the night and shot the victims in the head. Our client didn’t shoot anyone.”

“He says ‘you made a deal with the devil.’ Unfortunately, there’s more than one devil in this case and that is all four of the individuals who are charged,” the prosecutor replied.

Canepa said if Jake follows through and testifies, neither he nor his charged family members will face the death penalty.

George Wagner IV was indicted on a total of 22 charges. including eight counts of aggravated murder. Prosecutors wrote in court records “that George Wagner IV shot each victim named personally.

“It is now clear that such a claim is factually false and untrue. George Washington Wagner IV shot nobody. The State knows (the court records) is false and that George Wagner shot nobody.”

The other charges George Wagner IV faces are conspiracy to commit aggravated murder, four counts of aggravated burglary, three counts of tampering with evidence, one count each of forgery, unauthorized use of property, interception of wire, oral or electronic communications, obstructing justice, and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.

He is set to go on trial on April 22.

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