Pike County massacre trial canceled Thursday due to illness

Published: Sep. 29, 2022 at 5:24 AM EDT
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WAVERLY, Ohio (WXIX) - George Wagner IV’s murder trial in the 2016 Pike County massacre case is canceled Thursday due to an illness, court officials announced overnight.

It is not clear if court proceedings will resume on Friday.

The trial is in its third week as prosecutors continue to lay out their case against George Wagner IV.

On Wednesday, two special agents with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation testified about shoeprints found at the slaying scenes and the victims’ cell phone records.

Pike County massacre: Complete trial coverage

Wagner IV is the first of his four family members to go on trial in the April 21-22, 2016 killings of eight members of another family, the Rhodens.

This is the state of Ohio’s biggest and most complex homicide investigation to date.

Wagner IV, 30, has pleaded not guilty to eight counts of aggravated murder and other charges.

His 2018 indictment says Wagner IV, his father, George “Billy Wagner III, his mother, Angela Wagner and his younger brother, Jake Wagner, all carefully planned for months to kill the Rhodens. The motive was to gain “custody and control” of the 2-year-old daughter of Jake Wagner, and one of the victims, 19-year-old Hanna May Rhoden, prosecutors say.

All of the victims were shot to death, mostly execution-style in their beds as they slept, at four separate trailers on two properties in or near Piketon.

In addition to Hanna May Rhoden, the other victims are her father, Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40; two of her uncles, Kenneth Rhoden, 44 and Gary Rhoden, 38; her mother, Dana Lynn Rhoden, 37, and both of her brothers: Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16 and Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 20, as well as Frankie’s fiancé, Hannah “Hazel” Gilley, 20.

Download & Listen on Spotify or Apple: Cincinnati’s Crime Vault | Beyond the Broadcast: Pike County Massacre - Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4

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)

Jake Wagner and Angela Wagner both pleaded guilty for their roles in the killings last year.

They are scheduled to testify against him soon.

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.

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.

George “Billy” Wagner III, 50, is continuing to fight his charges and will be the next one to go on trial.

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

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