Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said custody was the motive of the Rhoden family massacre that killed eight members of a Pike County family.
On Tuesday, DeWine announced the arrest of two additional people hours after news broke that four members of a family with close business and family relations with the eight members of another family slain in April 2016 in Pike County, Ohio, have been arrested in connection with those deaths.
Attorney General Mike DeWine said a Pike County grand jury indicted the Wagner family members Monday on counts of aggravated murder. DeWine said prosecutors will seek the death penalty.
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.
DeWine said they have each been charged with eight counts of aggravated murder.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Pike County Sheriff Charles S. Reader and Pike County Prosecutor Robert Junk hosted a news conference at 4 p.m. Tuesday, detailing the killings.
Two others have been arrested in connection with a cover-up of the crimes: Rita Newcomb and Fredericka Wagner, mothers of Angela Wagner and George “Billy” Wagner are accused of forging custody documents.
Authorities said Billy Wagner was arrested in Fayette County, Kentucky. Angela Wagner was arrested at her home in Scioto County. Jake and George Wagner were arrested in Ross County. Fredricka was arrested at the family’s Flying W farm, which had been previously raided.
“They did this quickly, coldly, calmly and very carefully – but not carefully enough,” Reader said.
He said the suspects left parts to build a silencer and forged documents.
DeWine, who last week was elected next governor of Ohio, had said previously the investigation was laser-focused on the Wagner family, but he previously declined to call them suspects or persons of interest.
And neither he nor Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader had provided details about why investigators spent two days searching the Wagners’ Ohio property in 2017. Nor did they say at the time what prompted a news release asking the public for information on the Wagners.
Killed in the attack were Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40; his older brother, Kenneth Rhoden, 44; Christoper’s 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 fiancee, Hannah Gilley, 20, also was a victim.
The killers spared three young children, who were unharmed.
When reached by telephone Tuesday afternoon, Leonard Manley, the father of Dana Manley Rhoden, declined to comment.
The Wagners’ attorney says his clients look forward to their day in court but otherwise declined comment.
“They are hopeful for a thorough vetting of the facts,” John Kearson Clark said.
Authorities have repeatedly said the killers worked to cover their tracks, adding complexity to what is the largest homicide investigation in Ohio history.
As of April this year, investigators had received nearly 1,000 tips in the case, conducted nearly 500 interviews and processed more than 100 pieces of evidence.
The Wagners moved to Kanai, Alaska, from Adams County, Ohio, in June 2017, telling The Enquirer the speculation of their involvement in the Rhoden deaths drove them to move 4,107 miles.
“Really the point to moving up here was to basically get into a better environment so they wouldn’t talk about us. Sophia is getting older, so she wouldn’t hear it,” Jake Wagner told The Enquirer in June 2017, standing on the family’s front porch in Kanai. “And then it followed us here.”
Sophia is the daughter of Jake Wagner and victim Hanna Rhoden. Jake Wagner is also charged with unlawful sexual conduct with a minor for having sexual contact with Hanna May Rhoden when she was 15 years old and he was 20 years old.
John Kearson Clark, the Ohio-based lawyer for the Wagners, has said authorities were harassing his clients, who had nothing to do with the slayings and who had cooperated fully in the investigation.
“The authorities (using the media) want the public to believe that the Wagners are responsible and have absconded,” he told The Enquirer last year.
The Enquirer will update this story.
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