Pike County murders: 5 questions answered this morning

WAVERLY — Six members of the Wagner family were arrested Tuesday in the killing of eight members of the Rhoden family in Pike County in 2016, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced at a news conference.

The six were indicted in the deaths of Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40; Dana Manley Rhoden, 37; Hanna May Rhoden, 19; Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16; Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 20; Hannah “Hazel” Gilley, 20; Kenneth Rhoden, 44; and Gary Rhoden, 38.

» UNMATCHED COVERAGE: Who are the Wagners?

1. Who has been arrested?

Six members of the Wagner family were arrested on Tuesday. George “Billy” Wagner III, 47; Edward “Jake” Wagner, 26; Angela Wagner, 48; and George Wagner IV, 27, are charged with aggravated murder. Rita Newcomb, 65, and Fredericka Wagner, 76, are charged with obstructing justice and perjury.

There is no evidence anyone else was involved in the killings, DeWine said.

Credit: Ohio Attorney General’s Office

Credit: Ohio Attorney General’s Office

2. What are the charges? 

The four Wagners indicted on murder charges also face charges of conspiracy, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, tampering with evidence, unlawful possession of a dangerous ordnance, forgery, unauthorized use of property, interception of wire, oral or electronic communications, obstructing justice and aggravated burglary.

• Jake Wagner additionally is accused of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor. The charge accuses him of engaging in sexual contact with Hanna Rhoden when she was 15. The two share a child, Sophia, who was 2 when her mother was killed.

• Fredericka Wagner, the mother of Billy Wagner, and Rita Newcomb, the mother of Angela Wagner, were indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice. Newcomb also was indicted on forgery charges, according to court documents.

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

3. How are the Wagner family members connected to the victims? 

DeWine declined to discuss the motive in depth, but said the child between Jake Wagner and Hanna Rhoden played a role in the homicides. He also said there was an “undercurrent of drugs” to the killings.

The suspects, he said, “did this quickly, coldly, calmly.”

4. Why did it take two years to arrest any suspects?

The two-year investigation of the Pike County killings was the “longest, most complex” investigation in this history of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, DeWine said. The attorney general’s office received more than 1,100 tips conducted 550 interviews related to the case. Investigators traveled to 10 states and served 200 subpoenas and search warrants.

“We have never stopped working toward justice for the victims,” DeWine said.

5. What’s next in the case?

The case is expected to be a long process, Pike County Prosecutor Robert Junk said. He anticipates it will take years before the cases are concluded. DeWine stressed that the Wagners are suspects and presumed innocent until proven guilty.

“This is not the end, rather a new day in this case,” DeWine said.

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