George Wagner IV — the uncle of the little girl shared by his brother Jake and one of the eight victims his immediate family is accused of killing — was the most vocal proponent of the Wagners exacting revenge on Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine if any of them were arrested in the 2016 murder case, prosecutors said.
The revelation in Pike County Common Pleas Court came Wednesday during a bond discussion after Wagner IV, 27, pleaded not guilty to 22 counts, including eight counts of aggravated murder with death penalty specifications.
Wagner IV’s attorney sought bond, noting a history without criminal convictions or traffic offenses. But the state’s special prosecutor successfully objected, citing a confidential informant who disclosed to investigators that Wagner IV and his family discussed revenge multiple times, as well as discussing how the incarcerated family member would have escaped from jail.
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Already, prosecutors have suggested there may be a mole within the Wagner circle. When setting bond for Wagner IV's grandmother, Fredericka Wagner, who pleaded not guilty to charges alleging she helped cover up the murders, prosecutors revealed at least one of the revenge conversations occurred at her farm.
Also accused in the murders are Wagner IV’s brother, Edward “Jake” Wagner, 26; his father, George “Billy” Wagner III, 47; and his mother, Angela Wagner, 48. Prosecutors have said child custody is a major issue in the murder case.
In addition to revenge against Gov.-elect DeWine, the prosecutors said an attorney general’s special agent and Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader were also subjects of the revenge conversations.
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Reader, who has previously discussed how the eight-victim massacre has emotionally affected him, stood behind the bar next to the defendant’s table, where Wagner IV sat chained in an orange Ross County Jail jumpsuit. The four capital co-defendants are held in different jails across Ohio.
As with Tuesday's arraignment when Jake Wagner pleaded not guilty, surviving members of the Rhoden, Manley and Gilley families filled the courtroom's gallery for Wagner IV's arraignment.
Across the aisle sat Wagner IV’s aunt Robin Wagner, who has previously declined comment to the media. Before the arraignment, she sat beside her mother Fredericka’s attorney, who relayed a message to one of Wagner IV’s attorneys: “She just wants you to pass on to George that she loves him.”
Wagner IV is represented in court by attorneys Richard Nash, of Portsmouth, and Charles Knight, of Pomeroy.
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