Ohio massacre family: Ohio governor says guilty verdict in 2016 family massacre ‘takes us one step closer to getting justice’


An Ohio man accused of murdering another family with his family members in 2016 was found guilty on multiple counts of murder on Wednesday.

A jury convicted George Wagner IV of murdering eight people, seven of whom were members of the Rhoden family, who were shot and killed at four crime scenes around the small town of Piketon, Ohio, in April 2016.

Judge Randy Deering announced that, in addition to eight counts of aggravated murders, Wagner was convicted of falsifying evidence and conspiracy.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said Wednesday that the decision “takes us one step closer to getting justice.” DeWine was the state’s attorney general at the time of the murders.

The victims are Hanna May Rhoden, 19; Kenneth Rhoden, 44; brother Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40; and Christopher’s ex-wife, Dana Rhoden, 37. Also killed were Rhodens’ two other children: Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 20, Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16, and Gary Rhoden, 38, a cousin.

The eighth victim was Hannah Gilley, who was engaged to Clarence Rhoden.

George Wagner IV is one of six members of the Wagner family to face charges related to the case.

In 2018, a grand jury in Pike County indicted his father, George “Billy” Wagner III, his mother, Angela Wagner, and his brother, Edward “Jake” Wagner, of various crimes, each including eight aggravated murders. DeWine said that at the time, both of the Wagner family’s grandmothers were accused of allegedly covering up the crime.

“We believe the Wagners conspired together to develop an elaborate plan to kill eight victims in the dark and then carefully cover their tracks,” DeWine said in 2018.

Jake Wagner made a plea deal last year, agreeing to serve a life sentence without parole, CNN affiliate WKRC reported. According to the newspaper, the defense was entered on the fifth anniversary of the murders.

Additionally, Jake Wagner was charged with having unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor when one of the victims, Hanna May Rhoden, was 15 and she was 20, prosecutors said at the time. Prosecutors said Jake Wagner was the father of his eldest daughter, who stayed at the Wagners the night of the murder.

Angela Wagner pleaded guilty to fewer charges and at least 30 years in prison last year, according to WKRC.

“Our society respects mothers who take care of their children and teach them to do the right thing, even when it is difficult. But Angela Wagner failed miserably in her responsibilities, actively plotting the murder of an entire family and inciting her own children to commit violence.

“Today, the Rhoden and Gilley families can take some relief knowing that George Wagner has been convicted and will be punished along with his brother Jake and mother Angela,” Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said at a news conference Wednesday.

Billy Wagner pleaded not guilty and will be tried later this year, according to WKRC.

“The fate of Billy Wagner will also be determined, and my belief will remain unshakable that everyone involved in these murders will get what they deserve,” DeWine said.

The massacre rattled the small community of Piketon, which is home to nearly 2,000 people and is about 80 miles east of Cincinnati. The Wagners are from South Webster, about 30 miles southeast of Piketon.

At one of the four crime scenes, police found a 4-day-old baby next to her murdered mother. That child survived with a 6-month-old and 3-year-old.

Authorities at the time said the suspects spent months planning the murders and left traces behind.

Prosecutors did not provide a reasoning at the time, but implied custody of a child who may have played a “role in this case”. Prosecutors said earlier that the Wagners were also charged with forgery of custody documents.

“They left a mark: The parts needed to make a silencer, forged documents, cameras, cell phones – everything they’ve tampered with and lies,” Pike County Sheriff Charles S. Reader said at the time of their arrest.

The governor thanked law enforcement officials who took part in “this very difficult and complex case” on Wednesday.

“They helped uncover about 5,000 pieces of evidence. They put this case together. They figured out that there was a very illogical reason at the time – custody of a child – for the killing of eight innocent people, but they succeeded,” DeWine said.

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