Pictured are the individuals charged in the deaths of eight individuals in Pike County in April 2016. (Photo courtesy of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine)
Pictured are the individuals charged in the deaths of eight individuals in Pike County in April 2016. (Photo courtesy of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine)

Four individuals have been arrested in the deaths of eight members of the Rhoden family in Pike County in April 2016, according to a media advisory by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office.

DeWine said that a husband, wife and their two adult sons – George “Billy” Wagner III, 47; Angela Wagner, 48; George Wagner IV, 27; and Edward “Jake” Wagner, 26 – have each been charged with eight counts of aggravated murder in the deaths of Dana Manley Rhoden, Christopher Rhoden Sr., Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, Hannah “Hazel” Gilley, Hanna May Rhoden, Christopher Rhoden Jr., Kenneth Rhoden and Gary Rhoden.

“Following an extensive investigation by my office’s Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Pike County Sheriff’s Office, we have arrested four people accused of the murders of eight people in Pike County on April 22, 2016,” DeWine said.

“Yesterday, a Pike County Grand Jury indicted four individuals for aggravated murder with death penalty specifications,” DeWine said during a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

Other charges the Wagner family members face include:

• Conspiracy;
• Engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity;
• Aggravated burglary;
• Tampering with evidence;
• Unauthorized use of property;
• Unlawful possession of a dangerous ordinance;
• Interception of wire, oral or electronic communications;
• Obstruction of justice; and
• Forgery.

“We believe that the Wagners conspired together to develop an elaborate plan to kill the eight victims under the cover of darkness and then carefully cover their tracks,” DeWine tweeted Tuesday.

Two other people, Rita Newcomb – the mother of Angela Wagner – and Fredericka Wagner – the mother of Billy Wagner – were also arrested in conjunction with the investigation, DeWine said, for “alleged actions to mislead authorities.” 

DeWine said the motive for the murders appeared to be “obsession with custody and control of children” and that this “may be the most bizarre” case he’s ever encountered. As reported by The Columbus Dispatch: “Edward ‘Jake’ Wagner is the father of one of Hanna Rhoden’s children, who was 3 at the time of the killings.”

All six individuals are in custody in five different facilities – including Pickaway, Franklin, Ross and Delaware counties in Ohio, Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader said during the press conference. Billy Wagner was arrested in Lexington, Ky. and will be extradited to Butler County, Ohio, according to Reader.

As previously reported in The Highland County Press, local and state law enforcement officials said they suspected that there were multiple attackers in the April 22 killings of seven adults and one teenager in Pike County, just east of Peebles.

The victims included: Hannah Gilley, 20; Christopher Rhoden, Sr., 40; Christopher Rhoden, Jr., 16; Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden; 20; Dana Rhoden, 37; Gary Rhoden, 38; Hanna Rhoden, 19; and Kenneth Rhoden, 44.

Three children – one 4-day-old newborn, one 6-month-old and one 3-year-old – survived the shootings.

The redacted autopsy report indicates the cause of death of each individual is gunshot wounds to the head, with “multiple” wounds reported for most of the victims. Several victims also had gunshot wounds found in the neck or torso.

DeWine has said the top-priority case might be the biggest in the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation's history in terms of manpower and resources.

“We promised that the day would come when arrests would be made in the Pike County massacres,” DeWine said during the press conference. “Today is that day.”

On June 19, 2017, DeWine and Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader asked for help from the public for information regarding the four members of the Wagner family.

At that time, investigators said they were “interested in receiving information regarding any interactions, conversations, dealings, or transactions that the public may have had with these individuals, which could be personal, business or otherwise. Specifically, information could include, but is not limited to, information regarding vehicles, firearms and ammunition.”

The Wagners were formerly residents of Peterson Road in Peebles and were believed to be residing in Alaska in June 2017.