WAVERLY, Ohio (WCMH) – Prosecutors made their closing arguments Monday in George Wagner IV’s trial for the Rhoden family massacre.
Stemming from a custody dispute between his brother, Edward “Jake” Wagner, and victim Hanna May Rhoden over their daughter, George IV faces 22 counts — including eight aggravated murder charges — in connection with the killings of Hanna’s entire family. Jake and the pair’s mother, Angela Wagner, already pleaded guilty in 2021. Their father, George “Billy” Wagner III, awaits trial.
George IV recently had the death penalty thrown out by the presiding judge as a possible outcome for his case. However, he’s still waiting for the defense to make its closing arguments and the jury to decide on a verdict. Prosecutors took their closing argument as an opportunity to highlight the evidence they had.
“He doesn’t have to be the person that actually pulled the trigger,” said Special Prosecutor Angela Canepa, referencing previous testimony from Jake. “We know that George went into that room, and we know that he stepped into blood, and we see it on our diagrams, exactly where that was.”
George IV previously testified in his own defense that he never took part in or had any knowledge of the Rhoden family killings. He said once Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents revealed his family’s actions to him, he decided to help investigators by spying on them.
During cross-examination, prosecutors interrogated George IV about previous statements he made to BCI in 2017. That included quotes surrounding when he said he went to bed on the night of the murders. The special prosecutor pressed further on those and testimony from his mother and brother during closing arguments.
“What motive would she have to say, that George was involved? If George wasn’t involved, why would you do that to your son? You would say Jake, Bill and I did it, or just Jake did it,” Canepa said. “You were complicit, because you knew what was going to happen, you knew what they were going to go do, and you aided and abetted them.”
The defense is expected to begin its closing arguments at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday morning.