WAVERLY, Ohio (WCMH) — The brother of accused murderer George Wagner IV testified against him Monday, admitting in detail the family’s plan to kill eight members of the Rhoden family in 2016.
As a witness for the prosecution in court Monday, Jake Wagner — who pled guilty to the murders in April 2021 — admitted to the jurors the steps the Wagner family took ahead of the killings, including falsifying custody documents, purchasing guns and creating makeshift silencers. Jake Wagner also described what he said were Wagner IV’s and George Wagner III’s specific roles in the murders.
Jake Wagner’s testimony was not filmed or recorded per the judge’s order that witnesses may opt-out of having their face shown or voice recorded.
In addition to buying guns, Jake Wagner testified that his family bought ski masks, dark clothing and boots to conceal their identities during the crimes. He also described how the family modified the bed of the truck in order to hide him and Wagner IV in the back while Wagner III drove to the Rhoden’s trailers.
Eight members of the Rhoden family were found dead in Pike County on April 22, 2016. Prosecutors claimed the murders stemmed from a custody dispute over the daughter of Jake Wagner and Hanna May Rhoden, one of the victims. The other victims were Christopher Rhoden Sr., Dana Rhoden, Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, Christopher Rhoden Jr., Hannah Gilley, Gary Rhoden and Kenneth Rhoden.
On the stand, Jake Wagner said his family falsified custody documents to get Jake’s daughter from Hannah May Rhoden — admitting that his mother Angela signed Hannah May’s name without her permission. He also told jurors that Wagner IV hesitated before pulling the trigger at one point and that Wagner III expressed remorse for killing Christopher Rhoden Sr. — who he said was Wagner III’s friend.
In September 2021, Wagner family matriarch Angela pled guilty to charges including conspiracy to commit murder, aggravated burglary and tampering with evidence — but not to the eight murder charges against her. George “Billy” Wagner III, Jake and Wagner IV’s father, still awaits trial.
Testimony in Wagner IV’s trial will continue Tuesday.