‘I have regret’: Angela Wagner cross-examination wraps up in Pike County massacre trial

‘I have regret’: Angela Wagner cross-examination wraps up in Pike County massacre trial
Published: Nov. 3, 2022 at 9:48 AM EDT
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WAVERLY, Ohio (WXIX) - Angela Wagner was back on the stand for her third and final of testimony Thursday in her oldest son’s murder trial in the Pike County massacre.

Pike County massacre: Complete trial coverage

She broke down in tears a few times when talking about both of her sons: “This is not easy for me. It rips my heart out.”

Both Angela Wagner, 52, and Jake Wagner, 28, pleaded guilty to their roles in the April 2016 execution-style killings of eight members of the Rhoden and Gilley families.

Their testimonies are part of the plea deal.

The other two Wagners charged in the massacre, her son George Wagner IV, 31, and her husband, Billy Wagner, 51, have both pleaded not guilty and continue to fight all charges, including eight counts of aggravated murder.

Angela Wagner said she loved both of her sons, and also once loved the mother of her grandchild, Hannah May Rhoden, Jake Wagner’s ex-girlfriend who he says he killed, along with four of the other victims.

Custody and control over Sophia was the motive behind the slayings, prosecutors have said.

Angela Wagner and Jake Wagner have both testified this week, however, that they feared Sophia would be sexually abused as their motivation for the massacre. Prosecutors have never mentioned this as part of the motive.

By 2016, Jake Wagner and Hanna May Rhoden were sharing custody of Sophia, exchanging her every other week.

Angela Wagner said on the stand that when the toddler would return to their home, her private areas were “red” and had “strong odors.”

During her week with the Wagners, the redness would subside, Angela Wagner claimed, only to return after Sophia went back to the Rhodens.

One of George Wagner IV’s lawyers, Richard Nash, asked Angela Wagner why they never called children’s services to report their concerns.

She provided no explanation, saying she didn’t know.

In testimony earlier this week, Angela Wagner confirmed on the stand that her entire family, including herself, participated in the massacre.

On Thursday, her son’s attorney asked her where she was when the victims were shot to death.

She said she was at home, asleep.

“How could you fall asleep knowing that?” Nash asked.

“It was a long day, and I had worked all day,” Anglea Wagner responded. " I took some prescription ibuprofen. It made me go to sleep.”

He asked if she knew the details of the shooting: who shot who, what route her husband drove to the victims’ trailers, who fired the first shot, where the weapons were hidden.

Angela Wagner already testified about that earlier this week, telling jurors she “didn’t want to know the details.

She told her son’s attorney: “I don’t know.”

On Wednesday, before George Wagner IV’s defense team began questioning Angela Wagner, Special Prosecutor Angela Canepa asked her if anyone offered to take responsibility for shooting and killing eight members of the Rhoden family.

“My son George did,” Angela Wagner said, but she told him he could not take responsibility because she thought investigators would not believe him.

Angela Wagner was asked about how she felt when she saw on the news that her son, Jake Wagner, pleaded guilty.

“I felt like my heart was ripped out that day,” she said.

Nash asked Angela Thursday if the goal of the plea deal is to try to get out of prison eventually one day and see her grandchildren.

Yes, she told him.

She also said: “I have regret. I have remorse. I am more than sorry, but that’s not enough.”

Is the prospect of seeing her grandkids enough to testify in a death penalty case against her son? Nash asked.

“Yes,” she said.

Under her plea deal with prosecutors, Angela Wagner will be close to 80 years old when she is released from prison.

Before she finished testifying Thursday Angela Wagner said “all of us” are guilty of committing aggravated murder against the eight Rhoden family members.

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