Jury hears Angela Wagner’s interview with BCI years before her confession
Entire interview in story below
WAVERLY, Ohio (WXIX) - When the Wagner family returned to the United States after living in Alaska for a year following the Pike County massacre, state agents raced to question them at the Montana-Canada border.
On Thursday, jurors in George Wagner IV’s murder trial heard Angela Wagner’s interview with BCI Agent Jennifer Comisford and Agent Rick Ward.
She calmly claimed - after signing away her right to remain silent - that she first learned Hanna May Rhoden, the mother of her granddaughter, Sophie, and seven of Hanna’s relatives were all gunned down execution-style on April 21-22, 2016 by seeing it on the news.
“I was horrified,” Angela Wagner told the agents, according to the recording, describing it as “devastating.”
“We were just all upset over it.”
Prosecutors say the Wagners killed the Rhoden family to gain custody of 2-year-old Sophia, the daughter of Jake Wagner, 28, and Hanna May Rhoden, 19.
The couple began dating when she was 15, but they broke up and Hanna moved on to have another baby with a different man in, a daughter born just days before Hanna was shot to death.
Everything seemed just fine leading up to the killings, Angela Wagner told the agents, according to the recording.
Hanna even came over to show Angela and Jake the new baby, Kylie, just two days before her body was found.
“She made fun of Jake because he tried to dye his hair brown and it turned out black,” Angela Wagner recounted.
Angela Wagner’s interview is in stark contrast to what she would eventually admit to following the Wagners 2018 indictments: A carefully plotted and carried out murder scheme alongside both her sons and her husband that remains Ohio’s biggest and most expensive homicide case to date.
She pleaded guilty last year to her role in the slayings, even buying shoes at Walmart for her sons to wear at the crime scenes.
Her youngest son, Jake, also confessed, telling authorities he killed five of the eight victims and shot a sixth one.
Mother and son will both spend the rest of their lives behind bars if they follow through with plans to testify against George Wagner IV.
George Wagner IV is the first member of his family to be tried.
His murder trial is now in its fifth week and is expected to go into November.
George’s attorneys say he didn’t kill anybody and only learned of the murders when his brother got a phone call about them the following day.
Cracks in Angela Wagner’s cool, calm veneer began to show the longer agents questioned her, according to the recording.
When asked to describe her relationship with Hanna’s mother, she responded: “Cordial.”
Angela Wagner shared that she wanted her granddaughter to call her “Nana,” but Hanna’s mother claimed the moniker instead.
She told them she and Hanna were as close as they could be - a relationship, she noted, Hanna did not have with her own mother.
The BCI agents confronted Angela Wagner then about all the shell casings that BCI found at Wagner properties they searched and other evidence, including the shoes.
The agents showed her a picture of men’s Walmart shoes, a receipt with the same kind listed found in the Wagner’s belongings in trailers on US 41. They also showed Angela a photo of herself walking out of Walmart three weeks before the murders were committed.
Prosecutors say the shoes made footprints in blood at two of the crime scenes.
BCI Agent: “So you do remember buying them and you do remember throwing them away?
Agent Ward asked Angela if her son, Jake, could have committed the murders.
The Wagner mother said her son could not have done the crime because “he had nothing against them.”
Angela told the agents other people fired guns at her house, including one of the victims, Frankie Rhoden.
BCI Agent Rick Ward let her know they didn’t think she was telling them everything.
“I’m just going to stop right here and I can get an attorney,” Angela Wagner said.
The agents told her they didn’t want to make her mad.
“I’m not mad,” she responded.
She wouldn’t cooperate with investigators again - until her 2021 confession.
Angela then told prosecutors she questioned her husband and sons when they came back from committing the murders on Union Hil Road.
BCI Agent: “Have any reason to think that why somebody would come forward and indicate that you or someone in your family were someway involved in hurting the Rhodens?”
Angela Wagner: “I have no idea why anybody would say that unless, maybe one person, [could] be my son’s ex-wife.”
Agent: “Who’s that, Tabi?”
George IV and Tabitha Claytor had a son together and Tabitha claims the Wagners forced her to give up custody to them.
It is believed that jurors will eventually hear the same type of interview that BCI agents had with Jake Wagner.
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