Pike County massacre: Here’s when George Wagner IV will be sentenced

Published: Dec. 6, 2022 at 6:15 AM EST|Updated: Dec. 6, 2022 at 6:33 AM EST
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WAVERLY, Ohio (WXIX) - George Wagner IV will be sentenced on Dec. 19 after he was found guilty of killing eight people in Pike County more than six years ago.

Wagner IV faces life in prison when he appears at 10 a.m. before Pike County Common Pleas Court Judge Randy Deering, court records show.

Relatives of the victims will have the opportunity to address the now-convicted killer at the sentencing hearing and are expected to.

Following a months-long trial that ended last week, a Pike County jury convicted Wagner IV of all 22 charges including eight counts of aggravated murder.

The death penalty is off the table after his brother and mother testified against him for the state.

Pike County massacre: Complete trial coverage

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine called the trial “one of the longest, if not the longest, trials in Ohio history.”

The brutal murders of eight members of the Rhoden and Gilley families also are considered the state’s largest and most expensive homicide case to date.

Estimates from state and local officials last week placed the costs at nearly $4 million, all funded by the state of Ohio.

Wagner IV, 31, was accused of planning and covering up eight murders with his family April 21-22, 2016 in rural Piketon, about two hours east of Downtown Cincinnati.

George, his brother Jake Wagner, 28, and their parents Angela Wagner, 52, and Billy Wagner, 51, were all indicted on capital murder charges more than two years after the slayings, in November 2018.

Jake Wagner and Angela Wagner both pleaded guilty to their roles last year. Jake Wagner was first, in April, and his mother pleaded out in early fall.

They both took the stand and told the jury George Wagner IV planned, participated and helped cover up the slayings.

Both the state and defense agreed George didn’t shoot or kill anyone, but that’s where the similarities ended.

Prosecutors argued George was complicit in the killings and should be convicted on all charges including eight counts of murder.

He was the first one of the four Wagners to be tried.

George’s father Billy is continuing to fight the charges and will be tried next year.

In the background, the residence where some of the Pike County Massacre slayings took place...
In the background, the residence where some of the Pike County Massacre slayings took place can be seen.(Court TV)

The victims of the massacre were Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40; his older brother, Kenneth Rhoden, 44; his cousin, Gary Rhoden, 38; Chris Rhoden Sr.’s former wife, Dana Lynn Rhoden, 37, and their children: Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 20, Hanna May Rhoden, 19, Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16, and Frankie’s fiancé, Hannah “Hazel” Gilley, 20.

Two infants and a toddler were spared by the killers and left behind at the murder scenes: a 5-day-old baby girl, a 6-month-old baby boy and a 3-year-old boy.

Prosecutors said the motive in the murders was the custody of the young daughter of Jake Wagner and one of the victims he confessed to shooting in the head twice, Hanna May Rhoden.

The young couple began dating when she was 13 and he was 18. She became pregnant at 15 with Sophia.

They broke up after their daughter was born.

The bodies of members of the Rhoden family were discovered the morning of April 22, 2016. All...
The bodies of members of the Rhoden family were discovered the morning of April 22, 2016. All were shot execution style.(WXIX)

George testified in his own defense during the trial, telling the jury he had nothing to do with the killings and wasn’t even there that night.

Under cross-examination, George claimed his mother and brother both lied during their testimony and their 2021 confessions.

Jurors, however, clearly didn’t buy it.

They returned the guilty verdict after deliberating less than a day.

Special Prosecutor Angela Canepa read each of the slain victims’ names aloud during a press conference after the verdict that many relatives attended.

“I know today’s verdict does not bring your loved ones back,” she told them. “But I hope it does give you some semblance of peace that another of the evil monsters that did this is held accountable.”

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