Pike County murders: Mother’s attorney asks court for new venue, to drop death penalty

One of four capital defendants charged with the 2016 Pike County murders has asked a judge for a change of venue.

Attorneys for Angela Wagner, 48, asked the court to consider moving the case outside Pike County Common Pleas Court to ensure she receives “a fair trial before a jury untainted by pre-trial publicity.”

Wagner’s attorney, Robert Krapenc, said he filed the motion “out of an abundance of caution.”

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“My opinion of the process is that I filed a motion so I could preserve the right at a later date,” Krapenc said. “I would probably ask the judge not to rule on that motion until we try to find a jury in Pike County.”

Wagner faces 22 criminal charges in connection to the 2016 killings of eight people in Pike County, including the mother of her granddaughter. Among the charges are eight counts of aggravated murder, which carry death penalty specifications.

Also charged are her husband, George W. “Billy” Wagner III, 47, and their two sons, Edward “Jake” Wagner, 26, and George Wagner IV, 27. All pleaded not guilty to the same charges. Jake Wagner also pleaded not guilty to allegations of unlawful sexual conduct with Hanna Rhoden, one of the murder victims with whom he fathered a child.

The eight murder charges represent each of the eight people killed April 22, 2016: Chris Rhoden Sr., Dana Manley Rhoden, Hanna Rhoden, Chris Rhoden Jr., Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, Kenneth Rhoden, Gary Rhoden and Hannah “Hazel” Gilley.

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Krapenc also asked the court to dismiss the death penalty specifications against Angela Wagner, arguing Ohio’s death penalty is unconstitutional. He additionally asked the court to allow his client to appear in civilian clothing without restraints.

The Columbus attorney said his client is “doing fine” while kept in the Delaware County Jail.

“Obviously, she’s away from her family, she’s incarcerated. It’s putting a lot of pressure on her, especially around the holidays,” he said.

Read more coverage:

»Pike County murders: Grandmother on house arrest asks to leave Wagner farm

» AG-elect Yost proposes plan to help Pike County cover trial costs

» Focus on Wagner family turns into arrests for Pike County murders

» Death penalty possible for 4 of 6 arrested in Rhoden slayings

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