Pike County murders: Alaska pastor says Ohio family of interest attended church Sunday

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Pike County murders: Alaska pastor says Ohio family of interest attended church Sunday

The Ohio family investigators want more information about in eight Pike County murders attended church Sunday in southern Alaska, a pastor and family friend told the Dayton Daily News. 

Ohio investigators want to learn more about four people in the Wagner family as part of the Pike County murders investigation from 2016, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced Monday.

DeWine and Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader asked the public for information on George “Billy” Wagner, III, 46, Angela Wagner, 46, George Wagner IV, 25, Edward “Jake” Wagner, 24. 

They were not identified as suspects in the murders of eight members of the Rhoden and Gilley families. 

Last month, investigators searched property on Peterson Road in Peebles, Ohio, land sold by Jake Wagner and George Wagner IV in March. Jake Wagner was a long-time former boyfriend of Hanna Rhoden, one of the eight victims in the April 22, 2016 murders, and shared custody of their daughter at the time of the massacre. 

Investigators are “interested in receiving information regarding any interactions, conversations, dealings, or transactions that the public may have had with these individuals, which could be personal, business, or otherwise. Specifically, information could include, but is not limited to, information regarding vehicles, firearms, and ammunition,” a statement said. 

DeWine said authorities believe the family currently lives in Alaska.

Kelly Cinereski, pastor at Resurrection Bay Baptist Church in Seward, Alaska, told the Daily News the Wagner family attended his son’s church Sunday a couple hours west in Kenai. The pastor has not seen them personally during their latest trip to the state, but said the family brought trailers. 

Cinereski said he believes the Wagners are moving to the area — located a winding three-hour trip southwest of Anchorage — something they have been planning to do much of the decade-plus he has known them since he headed a church in Minford, Ohio. Over the past 11 years, the Wagners have come up three times to visit and fish. 

“When our boys were little, our boys were friends,” said Cinereski, who officiated George Jr.’s wedding. “They’re just good country people.” 

Cinereski said none of the Wagners talked to him about the murders or investigation, but he understands it was hard on Jake Wagner. 

“I think their son went through a lot of hurt over the whole deal,” he said. “I think they’re trying to move on.” 

Jake Wagner and Angela Wagner told the Cincinnati Enquirer this month they were not involved in the killings. 

“Please let’s concentrate on finding the real monsters who did this,” Jake Wagner said in a combined email from him and his mother, the newspaper reported June 8. 

“What has happened to us in the last few weeks has been devastating and will follow us for the rest of our lives,” Angela Wagner wrote in an email to the Enquirer. “Hanna was loved by all of us. She was like a daughter to me then and now.” 

Authorities suspect there were multiple attackers who were familiar with the victims’ homes and the surrounding area. The motive behind the killings remains unknown.

DeWine’s spokesman Dan Tierney declined to say whether Ohio investigators reached out to authorities in Alaska.

Tom Clemons, the police chief in Seward, Alaska, told the Daily News an Ohio reporter called him a few weeks ago to verify a tip she received regarding Ohio investigators visiting the city of about 2,000 on Alaska’s southern coast. 

Clemons said he told the reporter — he could not remember her outlet — he was not aware of investigators coming to Seward. Clemons said he also reached out to the Alaska State Troopers, who additionally were unaware of Ohio investigators’ interest in the Wagners. 

A spokesman for the Alaska State Troopers did not immediately reply to a request for comment. 

Besides Hanna Rhoden, those killed in the attack were her father, Christopher Rhoden Sr.; her mother, Dana Rhoden; her brothers Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden and Christopher Rhoden Jr.; Frankie Rhoden’s fiancee, Hannah Gilley; a cousin, Gary Rhoden; and Kenneth Rhoden, Christopher Rhoden’s brother. They ranged in age from 16 to 44. 

Ohio authorities ask those who have information to call the Pike County Sheriff’s Office at 740-947-2111. Authorities said information provided will remain confidential, and a $10,000 reward is still in effect. 

The Associated Press contributed reporting.

George "Billy" Wagner III
George Wagner IV
Edward “Jake” Wagner
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