BCI lead agent testifies about wire taps on Wagner family cell phones, trucks

Published: Nov. 8, 2022 at 8:47 AM EST|Updated: Nov. 9, 2022 at 8:44 AM EST
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WAVERLY, Ohio (WXIX) - The attorneys on both sides of the George Wagner IV murder trial in Pike County got into a heated argument Tuesday over transcripts of secret recordings of the Wagners captured by BCI.

It all happened outside of the jury’s presence as Special Prosecutor Angela Canepa and John Parker, George IV’s attorney, argued about 40 audio recordings that the prosecution wanted to play for the jury. Judge Randy Deering went through each individual recording allowing the defense to object.

The recordings between the Wagner took place in the Spring of 2018, just six months before the family was arrested.

The jury did not make it back into the courtroom to hear the secret recordings because the court did not get through all of the transcripts.

On Wednesday, jurors will hear the individual recordings that Judge Deering has ruled admissible.

Prior to the arguments over the recording, BCI lead agent Ryan Scheiderer testified that agents bugged the semi that George Wagner IV and Jake Wagner were using when driving delivery routes across the country for a Clinton County trucking company.

Scheiderer testified that he would tell lies and pose as other people on social media sites to entice the Wagners to talk about the case.

He said he was using false information, which is legal and ethical.

Prosecutor Canepa then asked Scheiderer to interpret the Ohio Revised Code for law enforcement.

Canepa: “When you are interviewing a defendant, for instance, are you allowed to say things that are not true to them?”

Scheiderer: “Yes.”

And why traditional investigative techniques wouldn’t work with the Wagners, Scheiderer said, “They know what they did and they don’t have to discuss it with anyone outside, you know, they’re a tight nit group.”

Scheiderer also on testified that he thinks there are mental health issues with all of the Wagners.

“I think there were mental issues for all four people to kill eight people,” Scheiderer said on the stand during cross-examination by one of George Wagner IV’s lawyers.

Pike County massacre: Complete trial coverage

The judge overseeing this case is allowing each witness to choose if their testimony will be seen by the public.

Scheiderer chose to allow it Monday and agreed again on Tuesday.

He said BCI sought the warrant for the wiretaps only after “exhausting” all other investigative techniques. That included interviewing some 500 witnesses, executing more than 40 search warrants, having 100 subpoenas issued and reviewing more than 1,000 tips.

The entire investigative team agreed it was a necessary step to obtain the wiretaps, he said, pointing out how close-knit the Wagners were and kept discussions amongst themselves.

It also was a way for BCI to become aware of new or known associates and/or relatives of the Wagners so BCI could interview them, he testified.

Scheiderer confirmed multiple facts of the case under cross-examination by defense attorney John Parker, in addition to his belief that the Wagners all have mental health issues including:

  • It was Billy Wagner’s idea to kill all Rhodens
  • All of the victims were shot in the head
  • He saw Jake Wagner ‘smile and smirk’ when Jake Wagner testified.
  • There was never any proof that Jake Wagner’s then 2-year-old daughter, Sophia, with one of the victims, Hanna May Rhoden, 19, was sexually abused.

Prosecutors long have said custody and control over the then-2-year-old daughter of Jake Wagner and one of the victims, Hanna May Rhoden, 19, was the motive behind the slayings.

Angela Wagner and Jake Wagner both testified recently against George Wagner IV as part of their plea deals with the state after admitting their roles in the slayings.

Both mother and son said on the stand they feared Sophia would be sexually abused during her time in her mother’s care and that was the motivation for the massacre, not custody and care of the little girl, Parker said.

He told Scheiderer the custody theory they were all proclaiming was “wrong.”

Scheiderer rebutted that and then clarified that while the sexual abuse concerns were part of it, custody ultimately was the motive.

George Wagner IV and his brother and their parents, Billy Wagner, 51, and Angela Wagner, 52, were all indicted in November 2018 for the killings.

Jake Wagner and Angela Wagner have both pleaded guilty to their roles in the slayings and testified against George Wagner IV as part of their plea deals.

George Wagner, 31, and his father have pleaded not guilty and continue to fight all charges, including eight counts of aggravated murder.

Billy Wagner’s trial is expected to be held in Pike County next year.

Jake Wagner and Angela Wagner both testified that the entire family participated in the massacre.

Jake Wagner calmly recounted in graphic detail how he killed five of the eight victims, including the mother of his child, and shot and wounded a sixth.

He implicated his father in killing three of the victims and confirmed on the stand his brother George killed no one, shot no one and, in fact, never once fired his gun.

George Wagner’s attorneys unsuccessfully tried to have the murder charges thrown out against their client earlier this year before the trial started.

His brother and mother’s confessions prove he didn’t kill or even shoot anyone, they argued in court records and in person before the judge, but Deering refused to dismiss the charges.

The judge sided with the state, who contends George Wagner should be convicted of the murder charges because he actively participated in the planning, preparation and cover-up of the massacre.

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