Pike County trial: Jury sees foot molds from Wagner men, hears more wiretap conversations
WARNING - Trial coverage could contain graphic images or language
WAVERLY, Ohio (WXIX) - The jury saw more evidence and heard more conversations, including some between one of the suspects and victims, as George Wagner IV’s murder trial continues in the Pike County massacre.
Retired BCI agent Bryan White held up a foot mold impression of Jake Wagner’s foot and photos of fingerprint and handprints the law enforcement agency gathered in July 2018.
Later in the day, the jury heard more Wagner family conversations that were captured on wiretaps.
A total of 10 recordings were played for the jury. Most of them were difficult to understand what was being said but we did hear one recording that was clearer than the others.
Hanna May Rhoden and her daughter, Sophia, are heard on many of the recordings.
Prosecutors say the Wagners killed the Rhoden family to gain custody of 2-year-old Sophia, the daughter of Jake and Hanna.
The couple had broken up and Hanna May Rhoden moved on with other men, including one who fathered her newborn baby just days before she was killed along with her relatives overnight on April 21-22, 2016.
The prosecutors say Jake Wagner called them from his cell phone in the months and weeks leading up to the murders in April of 2016.
The prosecution says Jake transferred the recordings to a laptop that was confiscated at the Montana border crossing when the Wagners were intercepted and interrogated on their way back from Alaska.
One particular recording was made on Christmas Eve 2015 - four months before the murders.
Prosecutors began playing the wiretap recordings on Monday. These captured the family talking on their cell phones and in their SUV as they drove back to Pike County from Alaska in the spring of 2018 and once they were here.
Wagner IV’d defense attorney John Parker asked more than once for the jury to hear the wiretap recordings in their entirety, not just portions the state played on Monday.
No, ruled Pike County Common Pleas Court Judge Randy Deering.
Citing an appeals court decision last month in a quadruple murder case currently on trial right now in Butler County, the judge announced before the first witness testified Tuesday that the defense cannot introduce portions of the wiretap recordings that are not relevant to what the state already has played.
Prosecutors, the judge noted, didn’t take any of the recordings played so far in court out of context, so the full tapes will not be played.
He instructed the state to go over wiretap portions they plan to play for jury with Wagner’s attorneys beforehand to avoid future court delays.
Wagner IV, 31, is the first member of his family - brother Jake Wagner, mother Angela Wagner and father Billy Wagner, to go on trial in the April 2016 execution-style shootings of eight members of the Rhoden and Gilley families in Piketon.
The trial, which began last month, is expected to run into November.
Wagner IV has pleaded not guilty. His attorneys say he didn’t kill anybody and only learned of the murders when his brother got a phone call about them the next day.
The other victims are her father, Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40; two of her uncles, Kenneth Rhoden, 44 and Gary Rhoden, 38; her mother, Dana Lynn Rhoden, 37, and both of her brothers: Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16 and Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 20, as well as Frankie’s fiancé, Hannah “Hazel” Gilley, 20.
Jake Wagner and Angela Wagner pleaded guilty to their role in the slayings last year.
Both are expected to testify soon against George Wagner IV.
Billy Wagner continues to fight his charges.
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