“We are a place that does not let cowardly murderers get away with their crimes under cover of the darkness”- Sheriff Charles Reader
By Bill Shope
Scioto Voice Writer
“We promised the day would come when we would make arrests in the case of the Pike County massacre. Today is that day,” stated Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine at a press conference on Tuesday at 4:15.P.M.
Six members of a Scioto County family have been charged and arrested in connection with the April 22nd, 2016 murders of eight people in Pike County. Angela Wagner, 48, her husband George “Billy” Wagner, 47, and their two sons, George Wagner IV, 27, and Edward “Jake” Wagner, 26, have each been charged in the gruesome deaths of the Rhoden family and Hannah Gilley. Killed in the attack were Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40, his former wife, Dana Manley Rhoden, 38; their three children, Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 20; Hanna Rhoden, 19; and Chris Rhoden, Jr., 16; and a cousin Gary Rhoden, 38. Frankie Rhoden’s fiancée, Hannah Gilley, 20, also was a victim. The killers spared three young children, aged three, six-months and four days, who were left unharmed.
“Today, a Pike County Grand Jury indicted four individuals for Aggravated Murder with death penalty specifications. After an extensive and thorough investigation by the Attorney General’s Office, the Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader’s office, these four members are now in custody for committing these brutal and heartless murders.”
The four named face eight charges of Aggravated Murder each, along with conspiracy, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, burglary, tampering with evidence, unlawful possession of a dangerous ordinance, unauthorized use of property, interception of wire, oral and electronic communications, obstruction of justice and forgery of child custody documents.
DeWine also announced the arrest of two other individuals were also arrested in the cover-up of the crimes; Rita Newcomb, mother of Angela Wagner and Fredericka Wagner, mother of the eldest Wagner. The charges against the two women are related to their attempts to mislead authorities working the investigation.
“Without question, this has been by far, the most extensive, labor intensive and complex investigation the Ohio Attorney General’s office has ever undertaken. Our investigators and analysts have lived this investigation since it began. Each one of us pledged, to never give up. Not a day has gone by, where any of us have not thought of the Rhoden, Gilley and Manley families,” said an emotional DeWine. “This has truly been a collaborative effort.”
Due to the ongoing investigation and its relevance to the case at hand, DeWine stated that details of motive would not be discussed at this time, except to say that custody of a child played a role in the killings.
Pike County Sheriff Reader made clear his feelings. “Once again, my office would like to let the families of the victims know our thoughts and prayers are with them, as they have been since April 22ndof 2016. We have worked, obsessively, to solve this case, running down every lead provided, no matter how small. Today, we have our answer. Pike County is much, much more than these murders. We are a place that does not let cowardly murderers get away with their crimes under cover of the darkness. We are a place that finds justice for victims, with today a big step along that path.” Reader went on to say that the continuance of any leads or further information would be welcomed by contacting 1-855-BCI-OHIO or the Pike County Sheriff’s office at 740-947-2111.
Of the suspect’s apprehension, Reader noted that neither law enforcement nor the suspects were injured. The elder Wagner was arrested early Tuesday morning outside of Fayette County, Kentucky in a horse trailer. Angela Wagner was arrested at her home in Scioto County, with George and Jake Wagner were apprehended together during a traffic stop on State Route 35 in Ross County, again, without incident. Earlier this year, it was revealed that law enforcement had received over 1,000 tips on the case, while also processing over 500 pieces of evidence and conducted almost 500 interviews in an attempt to solve the slayings. There were four crime scenes, two within walking distance of each other, one a mile away and another nearly eight miles away. Three days later, investigators announced marijuana and cockfighting operation had been located at the crime scenes.
Despite being the subject of intense investigation, DeWine had repeatedly declined to name the Wagner’s as either suspects or persons of interest early in the investigation process. The Wagner family moved to Kanai, Alaska in June of 2017, telling various news outlets they had done so as a result of accusations and speculation to their potential role in the mass killing.
The Rhoden and Wagner families had been previously connected via business transaction and familial ties, as Jake Wagner, one of the accused, fathered a daughter with murder victim Hannah Rhoden Jake Wagner had previously set up a GoFundMe account to help offset the cost of a custody dispute.
The investigation, to this point, had been recognized as the largest murder investigation in the history of the state, according to BCI information provided.