George Wagner IV concludes testimony at his murder trial

Published: Nov. 17, 2022 at 8:41 AM EST|Updated: Nov. 17, 2022 at 1:22 PM EST
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - George Wagner IV testified for the second day at his murder trial for the 2016 Pike County massacre that killed eight members of the Rhoden and Gilley families.

In a surprise move Wednesday, Wagner IV, 31, took the stand and testified for more than seven hours. His attorney, John Parker, questioned him for another hour Thursday morning.

George responded “No” to several questions including “Are you guilty of any of these murders?”

Then Special Prosecutor Angela Canepa began her cross-examination of George on Thursday.

George insisted under cross his mother and brother lied during their testimony and confessions to prosecutors, prompting Canepa to sarcastically tell him: “Everybody is lying except you.”

She succeeded in getting several admissions from George including:

  • Using an inaccurate (former) address to obtain his Ohio commercial driver’s license;
  • Listing an inaccurate (former) address on forms related to his gun ownership, a federal offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison. He told her he was advised to do this because his driver’s license still listed his former address);
  • He responded “We paid off our debts with it” when she asked him about a purposely set fire (arson) at one of the Wagner’s former homes, on Bethel Hill Road in Peebles. At first, George told her he didn’t really profit from it (the insurance payout);
  • Not reporting his mother for creating fake receipts to turn in these bogus fire loss claims;
  • Hunting at night “thousands of times.” Deer hunting hours in Ohio are 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources;
  • Calling his toddler niece (Jake Wagner’s daughter Sophie) a “b----.” But, George explained on the stand: “After five or six days on caffeine, you say a lot of things you don’t mean.”;
  • Failing to notify the mother of his young child know they moved back to Pike County from Alaska in 2018 before the waiting period was up to get an abandonment ruling against her.

On Wednesday, George testified his family never approached him about the murder plot and he was asleep the night of the slayings.

Had he known, he claimed he would have stopped them.

“I don’t know how, but I would have never let it happen,” he told the jury on Wednesday.

Canepa also exposed differences between George’s testimony Wednesday and what he told state law enforcement agents during a 2017 interview. He told them he went to bed the night of the slayings at 12:30 p.m. after watching a “fairy movie” with his entire family and his mother made cheeseburgers.

During his testimony this week, he said he went to bed at 10:30 p.m. Special Prosecutor Canepa also wanted to know how his brother and father could have been “up on Union Hill Road” where the victims lived, killing them less than an hour after he claimed on the stand everybody went to bed the night of the slayings.

“I don’t have an answer for that,” he responded. “I don’t know.”

George Wagner IV, 31, his younger brother, Jake Wagner, 28, and their parents, Angela Wagner, 52, and Billy Wagner, 51, were all charged with eight counts of aggravated murder and several other charges related to the execution-style shootings in Piketon on April 21-22, 2016.

Pike County massacre: Complete trial coverage

Prosecutors also need to finish entering all their exhibits into the official court record as evidence.

It’s not certain yet how many trial days there will be next week due to the Thanksgiving holiday.

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