WAVERLY- George Wagner IV, suspect in the 2016 Rhoden family murders, appeared before Pike County Common Pleas Court on Monday afternoon for a brief pre-trial hearing.
With members of the public and media present, but no specially-certified court stenographer, no specific action was taken with exception for a scheduling of his next trial on Oct. 25.
Wagner, appearing in civilian clothing and without visible restraint, was accompanied by his lawyers: John Patrick Parker of Cleveland and Richard M. Nash Jr. of Portsmouth. He and his attorneys both expressed satisfaction with their level of access to one another.
Included among the 22 charges the 29-year-old faces are eight counts of aggravated murder with death penalty specifications. He has pleaded not guilty on all counts.
Wagner did not follow suit with two other family members, mother Angela Wagner and younger brother Edward “Jake” Wagner who have pleaded guilty earlier this year.
As the News Watchman reported in April, Jake Wagner’s plea of killing eight members of the Rhoden family will prevent a death sentence in exchange for testifying against his family. He had previously pleaded not guilty in January 2019.
Angela Wagner, on Friday, also pleaded guilty to several charges, but not murder, and will now face 30 years in prison.
Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost both commented following the second plea agreement. Now only George Wagner IV and his father, George “Billy” Wagner III, have not entered into such forms of an agreement.
“Our society reveres mothers for taking care of their children and teaching them to do the right thing, even when it’s hard. But by actively plotting the murder of an entire family and encouraging her own kids to carry out the violence, Angela Wagner abjectly failed in her responsibilities,” said Yost.
“I send my thanks to the dedicated special agents, forensic scientists and intelligence analysts at the Bureau of Criminal Investigation — at least 33 past and present by my office’s count — who have worked this case without ceasing since the start. Their work will continue until each of the perpetrators of these crimes are held accountable.”
DeWine was the state’s attorney general in 2018 when the Wagners were arrested that November. On Twitter, he said he was pleased to see “justice carried out” and expressed gratitude for the investigators and prosecutors on the case.
Billy Wagner, held at the Butler County Jail, will return to the county courthouse on Thursday, Sept. 16 before Judge Randy D. Deering. His 22 charges also include eight counts of aggravated murder, four counts of aggravated burgalry, and several counts for tampering with evidence.
The Wagners are accused of killing seven members of the Rhoden family, plus the fiancée of one of the Rhoden victims, at four different Pike County homes.
Those murdered include: Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40, his ex-wife Dana Manley Rhoden, 37, and their three children, Hanna May Rhoden, 19, Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16, and Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 20. Frankie Rhoden’s fiancée, Hannah “Hazel” Gilley, 20, was also killed, along with the elder Christopher Rhoden’s brother Kenneth Rhoden, 44, and cousin Gary Rhoden, 38.
Patrick Keck is editor of the Pike County News Watchman.