Billy Wagner’s interview with BCI agents played at Pike County trial

Billy Wagner’s interview with BCI agents played at Pike County trial
Published: Oct. 5, 2022 at 8:48 AM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

WAVERLY, Ohio (WXIX) - Jurors listened Wednesday morning to a recording of Billy Wagner’s 2016 interview with state law enforcement agents as the Pike County massacre trial continues.

Pike County massacre: Complete trial coverage

Billy Wagner and his wife, Angela Wagner, and their two sons, George Wagner IV and Jake Wagner, were all charged with killing eight members of the Rhoden family over the custody of their granddaughter, Sophia, the daughter their son, Jake Wagner and Hanna May Rhoden 19.

George Wagner IV is the first of the four family members to go on trial in what is the state of Ohio’s biggest and most expensive homicide investigation.

Jake Wagner and Angela Wagner already pleaded guilty to their roles in the slayings and will testify against George Wagner IV soon.

George and his father are continuing to proclaim their innocence.

In a profanity-filled, fast-and-loose interview about six months after the killings, Billy Wagner repeatedly suggested his lifelong friend and one of the victims, Christopher Rhoden Sr., may have been killed over his drug involvement and was “drunk” at one point during the last week of his life.

“I think you boys are going in the wrong direction,” He told the agents as they sat in vehicle at the Kroger parking lot in Waverly. “Seems to me something ain’t right.”

Billy Wagner made references to Chris Rhoden Sr. possibly owing money to a Cincinnati drug dealer, having “weed coming in” and the so-called “Cornbread Mafia” (Kentucky pill mills).

Whoever did it, he told them, “That is some real Seal Team 6 s***.”

He repeated a rumor twice that Hanna May Rhoden was dating a deputy sheriff. He told agents a deputy’s vehicle was parked on Union Hill Road the night of the murders.

BCI agents had a hard time tracking him down for the interview and finally approached him in the grocery store parking lot.

They climbed into the vehicle with him telling him their conversation was “just between us.” He told them “It took you long enough to come talk to me.”

Billy Wagner clearly didn’t trust them and wanted to make sure first they weren’t in any way connected to the Pike County Sheriff’s Office: “This is the crookedest f---ing county in the state of Ohio.”

After they assured him they are not, he said he would tell them whatever he can to help them out.”

He called Chris Rhoden Sr. his “best friend,” telling the agents: “He wasn’t no saint but Chris never hurt nobody.” Chris Rhoden Sr. “done everything for me.” He would “give you the shirt off your back.”

He said the men traveled together and bought cars for Chris Rhoden Sr. “Our plan, we was going to buy a bar on the [expletive] beach and just sit there, you know get drunk, sit on the beach and you know, play with the strippers.”

The conversation then turned to Hanna Rhoden, the mother of Billy Rhoden’s grandchild, Sophia.

Billy is allegedly heard saying Hanna was a “pure brat” and that Jake was distraught when she broke up with him.

“Jake, he’s running around like a [expletive] you know, he acts like she’s still coming home,” the recording continues. “Jake he just, you know, he don’t. . . he just walks around in a [expletive] daze.”

Billy then told the agents not to tell anyone that he spoke with them.

George Wagner IV’s defense team was brief with Agent Jenkins, asking him about their procedures in questioning Billy Wagner.

The agent said he was unsure if Billy knew he was being recorded because they did not explain it when they approached him in the parking lot.

The defense objected to the playing of the Billy Wagner interview recording in court saying that there has to be proof of a conspiracy to commit aggravated murder before the tapes can be played.

The state said it is meant to show how the agents began their investigation into the Wagner family and Judge Randy Deering agreed and denied the mistrial motion.

Relatives and friends have been testifying for the past few days about the stormy relationship between Hanna Rhoden and Jake Wagner and the controlling ways of his parents, especially his mother, Angela Wagner.

The couple had their daughter when Hanna May Rhoden was 15 and Jake Wagner was 20 but broke up. Hanna May Rhoden began seeing someone else and had another baby with that man.

The custody and control of that child was the motive in what has become Ohio’s biggest and most expensive homicide investigation to date.

Sophia was just 2 years old when her mother and seven of her mother’s relatives were all shot to death at four separate residences overnight on April 21-22, 2016.

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)

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.

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.

Jake Wagner, 28, and Angela Wagner, 51, both pleaded guilty for their roles in the killings last year.

They are scheduled to testify against him soon.

Jake’s ex-wife, Beth, also is set to take the stand for the prosecution.

Jake Wagner has 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 that she 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.