- An Ohio grand jury charged four members of the Wagner family with the 2016 murders of eight people on a family farm in Pike County.
- Ohio Attorney General and governor-elect Mike DeWine said in a press conference on Tuesday that the victims were “killed in cold blood.”
- Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for all four suspects.
In a press conference on Tuesday, Ohio Attorney General and governor-elect Mike DeWine announced the arrests of suspects George “Billy” Wagner III, 47, his wife Angela Wagner, 48, and their sons George Wagner IV, 27, and Edward “Jake” Wagner, 26.
The four were indicted by an Ohio grand jury and each was charged with eight counts of aggravated murder “with death penalty specifications,” according to the attorney general.
In addition to aggravated murder, the four were charged with “conspiracy, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, tampering with evidence, unlawful possession of a dangerous ordinance, forgery, unauthorised use of property, interception of wire, oral, or electronic communications, obstructing justice, and aggravated burglary,” according to a release from DeWine’s office. Overall they face more than 80 criminal counts, according to NBC News.
On April 22, 2016, the bodies of Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40, his brother Kenneth Rhoden, 44, Christopher Rhoden Sr.’s ex-wife Dana Manley Rhoden, 37, their three children, Hanna May Rhoden, 19, Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16, and Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 20, Frankie Rhoden’s fiancée, Hannah “Hazel” Gilley, 20, and a cousin Gary Rhoden, 38, were found in four different homes on the family farm. All eight died of gunshot wounds.
Three children were left alive.
“We promised the victims’ families that the day would come when this case would be solved, and today is that day,” DeWine said in a release. “The indictments allege that these suspects developed a calculated plan to execute the victims in the middle of the night and then carefully cover their tracks. Their alleged plan was sophisticated, but not sophisticated enough for our team of investigators and prosecutors.”
Officials said on Tuesday that a key piece of evidence was found on Oct. 30, but did not specify what it was.
Angela Wagner’s mother Rita Newcomb, 65, and Billy Wagner’s mother, Fredericka Wagner, 76, were also arrested on Tuesday, for involvement in what DeWine called “the cover up.” They were both charged with obstructing justice and perjury. Newcomb was also charged with forgery.
Prosecutors allege that these murders were connected to a custody issue. Jake Wagner (one of the suspects) had been a long-time boyfriend of Hanna Rhoden (one of the victims); the two had a child, who was 3 years old at the time of the murders, according to The Columbus Dispatch.
Around 100 marijuana plants were found when officials were searching the crime scene; DeWine called the drugs an “undercurrent” of the case, according to The Dispatch.
DeWine said the investigation, which included both state and local officials, was the largest in Ohio’s history.