Angela Wagner’s mother testifies Friday as fifth week of Pike County trial wraps up

People close to Wagner family take stand in Pike County
Published: Oct. 14, 2022 at 9:00 AM EDT|Updated: Oct. 14, 2022 at 11:29 AM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

WARNING - Trial coverage could contain graphic images or language

WAVERLY, Ohio (WXIX) - The George Wagner IV’s murder trial for the 2016 Pike County massacre wrapped up Friday with its fifth week of testimony.

Pike County massacre: Complete trial coverage

Randa Hughes was the first witness called to the stand.

She is the mother of Chris Newcomb’s two children. He is the little brother of Angela Wagner, George Wagner IV’s mother.

Special State prosecutor Angie Canepa asked Hughes about Jake and George Wanger’s appearance just before eight members of the Rhoden family were found shot to death execution-style.

Canepa: “Did you ever see Jake or George Wagner with their hair dyed?”

Hughes: “Yes.”

Canepa said in the weeks leading up to the murders, the two brothers dyed their hair to emulate actor Norman Redus, who stars in “The Walking Dead” and “Boondock Saints.”

The latter is a movie about two brothers who perform vigilante justice.

George IV’s defense team questioned Hughes about one of the shows.

Defense: “And you’ve watched the ‘Walking Dead’, right?’”

Hughes: “I have.”

Defense: “How do you kill a zombie?”

Hughes: “They shoot them in the head.”

Seven of the eight Rhoden victims were shot multiple times in the head

Angela Wagner’s mother, Rita Holcomb, also testified Friday, but she requested her testimony to not be taped or recorded.

George Wagner IV, his mother, father Billy Wagner and brother Jake Wagner were all indicted in the execution-style slayings of eight members of the Rhoden and Gilley families.

Wagner IV, 31, is the first member of his family to be tried.

His attorneys say he didn’t kill anybody and only learned of the murders after the fact when his brother got a phone call.

The state says the Wagners carefully planned and carried out the murders to get custody of Jake Wagner’s 2-year-old daughter, Sophia, whose mother was one of the victims, Hanna Ray Rhoden, 19.

Prosecutors have been bringing in Wagner and Rhoden relatives to provide background about both families and details of the months and days leading up to the slayings, as well as the aftermath.

On Friday, Hughes said Newcomb didn’t want her to meet his sister Angela Wagner. They dated a while before they finally did.

Hughes told jurors she didn’t like Angela Wagner: “She was so judgemental...she was just a conniving...she would judge people when she had more skeletons in her closet than anybody.”

Things were Angela Wagner’s “way or the highway,” Hughes testified. “She would be very persistent until you just walked off.”

This is the latest in a long list of witnesses for the state who described George Wagner IV’s mother as controlling.

After the massacre, the Wagners instructed Hughes not to talk to the law enforcement agency investigating it, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), Hughes testified.

After the Wagners were arrested, Hughes says they wanted her to try to get custody of George Wagner IV’s son, Bulvine, and Jake Wagner’s daughter, Sophia.

George Wagner and Chris Holcomb were very close, but once Jake Wagner confessed to the massacre, Hughes testified that the custody requests stopped.

Angela Wagner and Jake Wagner have both pleaded guilty to their roles in the massacre. Jake Wagner admitted last year to killing five of the victims and shooting and wounding a sixth.

Both Angela and Jake are expected to testify against George Wagner IV later this month.

Billy Wagner continues to fight the charges and will be the next one to go on trial, likely next year.

See a spelling or grammar error in our story? Please include the title when you click here to report it.