George Wagner IV murder trial in Pike County massacre begins third week of testimony

George Wagner IV murder trial in Pike County massacre begins third week of testimony
Published: Sep. 26, 2022 at 8:45 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 26, 2022 at 11:07 AM EDT
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WAVERLY, Ohio (WXIX) - George Wagner IV’s murder trial in the 2016 Pike County massacre is now into its third week of testimony.

Pike County Prosecutor Rob Junk revealed Monday that no DNA from any of the Wagners was found at the fourth and final crime scene, Kenneth Rhoden’s trailer.

So now that is all four crime scenes where no Wagner DNA was detected.

Prosecutors focused Monday morning on Kenneth’s trailer, which is located in a rural area off Left Fork Road in Piketon.

The special agent with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation who processed that scene, George “Ed” Staley Jr., testified for hours.

He showed the jury multiple photos he took of the property as he arrived and walked around and then as he approached and entered the trailer.

One photo showed a shed with security cameras mounted on it.

“The cameras were not plugged into anything,” he explained to the jury. “The DVR downstairs, if I remember correctly, was not plugged into the wall and when I looked at it, it had cobwebs all over it so it appeared like it had not been used for any length of time.”

A stairway led to a basement area in the shed where they found what he “presumed” to be marijuana plants.

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Most of the victims were found shot execution-style shortly before 8 a.m. on April 22, 2016, in three separate trailers on Union Hill Road.

Christopher Rhoden Sr.’s brother, Kenneth Rhoden, was found dead several hours later that afternoon, inside his trailer about 6.5 miles away.

Unlike the other victims, he was shot just once, in his right eye, Special Prosecutor Angela Canepa said during her opening statement.

Staley said Monday he believed Kenneth Rhoden was shot while he was asleep. He was halfway under a green blanket or comforter.

His right eye was completely gone, and his left eye was half open, Fraley said.

A .40 caliber shell casing was found in the bed. Staley held up the cartridge for the jury to see.

Kenneth Rhoden’s trailer showed no signs of forced entry.

His money, keys and wallet on his bed were still on his bed when BCI agents arrived several hours later.

The killers spared two babies and a toddler, leaving them behind with their slain parents at the Union Hill Road residences: Hanna May Rhoden’s 5-day-old daughter, Kylie; Frankie Rhoden’s 3-year-old son, Brentley and his other son, Ruger, whose mother was Hannah Hazel Gilley.

The slayings are considered the state’s biggest and most complex homicide investigation.

Four members of another family once close to the Rhoden family, the Wagners, were indicted in the slayings in November 2018.

The eldest son, George Wagner IV, 30, has pleaded not guilty to several charges including eight counts of aggravated murder.

His younger brother, Jake Wagner, and their mother, Angela Wagner, have pleaded guilty for their roles in the killings and are scheduled to testify against him in the coming weeks.

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Jake Wagner, 28, pleaded guilty to eight counts of murder and 15 other charges including gun specifications, conspiracy, burglary, possession of dangerous ordnance and tampering with evidence.

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In exchange, prosecutors say they will drop the possibility of the death penalty and Jake Wagner agreed to serve eight life sentences without parole.

His lawyer said Jake Wagner “knows he’s going to die in prison without any judicial relief.”

He is held at the Franklin County Jail.

His mother pleaded to conspiracy to commit aggravated murder, several counts of aggravated burglary, tampering with evidence, and other charges as part of a plea deal. The remaining eight counts of aggravated murder were dismissed.

The prosecution is recommending the 51-year-old woman serve 30 years in prison with no possibility of the death penalty. She currently is held at the jail in Delaware County.

The trial is expected to last six to eight weeks, prosecutors have said.

Exhibit from prosecution during opening statements in the trial of George IV.
Exhibit from prosecution during opening statements in the trial of George IV.(Liz Duf | Cincinnati Enquirer)

The other Wagner still facing trial and accused of actually shooting and killing anyone is the family patriarch, 50-year-old George “Billy” Wagner III.

He has pleaded not guilty and remains locked up at the Butler County Jail.

He is charged with eight counts of aggravated murder, four counts of aggravated burglary, three counts of tampering with evidence, two counts of unlawful possession of dangerous ordnance and single counts of conspiracy, forgery, unauthorized use of computer or telecommunications, interception of wire, oral or electronic communication, obstructing justice and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.

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