Family Of Four Charged in 2016 Slayings Of Eight In Pike County

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine stands at a podium to announce indictments in the 2016 murder of eight people in Pike County
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announcing the indictments of four family members in the 2016 slayings of eight members of the Rhoden family in Pike County. [Nick Evans / WOSU]
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By Nick Evans, WOSU

Four members of a family have been arrested in the 2016 execution-style shootings of seven adults and a 16-year-old boy in rural Pike County in Central Ohio.

After a lengthy and intensive investigation, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced aggravated murder charges with death penalty specifications against four members of the Wagner family—George "Billy" Wagner, 47, his wife Angela Wagner, 48, and their sons, Goerge Wagner, 27, and Edward "Jake" Wagner, 26.  Two other family members, Rita Newcomb, 65, and Fredericka Wagner, 76, the mothers of Angela and Billy Wagner, were also charged and accused of attempting to cover up the crime to mislead authorities. 

No motive was announced.  

“There certainly was obsession with custody—obsession with control of children," said DeWine during a news conference to announce the indictments.  "I just might tell you this is just the most bizarre story I’ve ever seen.”

The four members of the Wagner family were also charged with forgery of a custody document and tampering with evidence, according to the indictment.

DeWine said the investigation was one of the most extensive and complicated in Ohio's history, involving "tens of thousands of hours" and spanning several states, including Alaska, where the Wagners moved briefly after the murders before returning to Pike County.  

"We have followed more than 1,100 tips from the public. We conducted more than 550 interviews, served more than 200 search warrants, subpeonas and court orders and tested more than 700 items," he said.

DeWine said the Wagners spent months meticulously planning the crimes by studying the Rhoden family’s habits and routines.  

Among those killed were Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40; his ex-wife Dana Manley Rhoden, 37; and their three children, Clarence Rhoden, 20, Hanna May Rhoden, 19, and Christopher "Frankie" Rhoden Jr., 16.  Frankie Rhoden’s fiancee, 20-year-old Hannah Gilley, as well as Christopher Rhoden Sr.'s brother Kenneth Rhoden, 44, and cousin Gary Rhoden, 38, were also fatally shot.  

A lawyer for the Wagner family said they will be vindicated.

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