Jury deliberates in Pike County murder trial of George Wagner IV

Defendant faces 22 charges for the 2016 killings of the Rhoden family.

The trial of George Wagner IV is beginning to reach the end after three months of testimony.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys gave closing arguments Monday and Tuesday. Common Pleas Court Judge Randy Deering gave the jury its instructions before members headed into deliberations around 2 p.m. Tuesday.

Instructions included definitions they need for each charge, and other more specific considerations.

Wagner faces 22 charges in total, including eight charges of aggravated murder and other charges associated with tampering with evidence, conspiracy and forgery in the killings of eight members of the Rhoden family in 2016. The Rhodens and Wagners lived in Pike County at the time, and prosecutors say the killings happened because Jake Wagner and one of the victims, Hanna May Rhoden, had ongoing custody issues regarding their daughter, Sophia.

George and his father, Billy Wagner, are two of the accused suspects who will have their fates decided in court. The other two suspects, Angela Wagner, his mother and Jake Wagner, his brother, took plea deals.

Both testified in George’s trial and laid out how they made plans and executed the Rhodens, whose bodies mostly were found in their beds. The defense says George is innocent in the crime and is simply connected because he is a member of the Wagner family.

Found dead that day were 40-year-old Christopher Rhoden Sr., 37-year-old Dana Rhoden, 20-year-old Hannah “Hazel” Gilley, 16-year-old Christopher Rhoden Jr., 20-year-old Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 37-year-old Gary Rhoden, 19-year-old Hanna May Rhoden and 44-year-old Kenneth Rhoden.

In August, ahead of the trial, the jury was taken to multiple locations where the killings had taken place. The trial got started in early September after a week delay due to an illness of someone connected to the case.

The jury heard from dozens of witnesses, some from as far away as Alaska, where the Wagner family had moved prior to their 2018 arrests. Many pieces of evidence, including bullet casings and bloody shoe prints, were submitted after being shown to jury members.

Testimony was presented by a variety of people, including investigators who worked with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, a coroner, ex-wives and ex-girlfriends of the homicide suspects, friends and family and more. Much of the information presented revealed how tightly woven the four Wagner family members were, including their finances.

During George’s testimony, he talked about his father, Billy, teaching him and his brother, Jake, how to commit crimes. That included stealing gasoline from fuel stations, emptying semi-tractor trailers of cargo and setting fire to homes to collect insurance money.

George told jurors his family never wanted to steal from other blue collar people and they would make sure anyone to whom they did harm would be able to recoup their losses through insurance payments.

His testimony also talked of tumultuous relationships between people he and his brother dated and their mother, whom he painted as an in-charge person who laid out the family’s rules.

To follow the case and read the outcome when it is announced, visit daytondailynews.com, springfeldnewssun.com or journal-news.com.

Staff members at WCPO, our content partner, contributed information to this report.

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