In the 2016 murders of eight members of a family in southern Ohio, a man was on trial. He testified Wednesday that he didn’t know his relatives had planned to kill them and that he would have taken steps to stop the deaths if he knew.
George Wagner IV, 31 years old, took the stand in Pike County. He denied knowing of his family’s involvement with the murders of seven Rhoden family members and one future Rhoden member. Authorities have stated that the killings were the result of a custody dispute.
George Wagner IV said, “I would never have believed that my family could do something like this.” His mother and brother pleaded guilty to the charges and his father is awaiting trial. “Theft is not the only thing. Murder is a completely different matter.
When asked by his attorney, he replied that he wouldn’t have let it happen. It would have happened in one way or another.
Angela Canepa, a special prosecutor, has not charged George Wagner IV with shooting anyone. However, she has claimed that he participated in the planning, execution and cover-up of “one of most horrific crimes in Ohio history.” The defense argued that George Wagner IV was not like his family and had nothing do with the murders.
Canepa claims that George Wagner IV was in the car with his brother, his father, and went to three different locations where the eight victims were killed. He then went inside and helped his brother move two bodies.
George Wagner IV testified that on the night of the murders, he was asleep at home and discovered that the Rhodens had been killed. He called the news “more distressing, more frightening than anything I have ever seen”
Edward Wagner, his younger brother, testified earlier as part of a plea deal. He was spared the death penalty because he killed five victims and implicated his father in three of the slayings. He stated that he felt the only option was to kill the mother of his toddler girl because he feared the safety of the girl.
Angela Wagner, mother to Jake and George, pleaded guilty earlier to conspiring in the slayings. However, she blamed her husband George “Billy” Wagner III for the murders. She stated that she believed the other family would take revenge on the woman’s death, and would kill Jake “if we don’t all of them,” so the rest “had to be killed.”
George “Billy” Wagner III has pleaded guilty and won’t be going to trial until next year. The arrests of the four Wagner relatives were made more than two years after the April 2016 murders.
Canepa claimed that the Wagners spent three years planning the massacre and buying ammunition, masks, and a device to block phone signals. She said that the brothers dyed their hair during the week leading to the massacre.
The victims were Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40, his ex-wife Dana Rhoden (37 years old), and their three children, Clarence Rhoden Sr. (20 year-old), Clarence Rhoden Jr. (16-years-old), and Hanna Rhoden (19-years-old). Hanna Rhoden is the mother of Jake Wagner’s child. Clarence Rhoden’s fiancée, Hannah Gilley (20 year-old); Christopher Rhoden Sr.’s 44-yearold brother, Kenneth Rhoden and Gary Rhoden (38) and a distant cousin, 38-years, 38-years)