WAVERLY, Ohio (WCMH) — After a jury found George Wagner IV guilty Wednesday on all of the charges he faced in the 2016 Rhoden murders, three of four members of the Wagner family have been convicted.
But Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, at a press conference Wednesday evening said the largest homicide investigation in Ohio’s history, and a case in the public eye for more than six years, has yet to see its final chapter.
“We’re not done yet. There’s one more trial, obviously,” DeWine said.
That is for the patriarch of the family, George “Billy” Wagner III, who still awaits a trial.
He has pleaded not guilty to the same slate of charges, including eight counts of aggravated murder, that George IV was found guilty of by a jury that returned from deliberations with a verdict about eight hours after they started.
“In the days ahead, George Wagner will get sentenced, and Billy Wagner’s fate will also be determined,” DeWine said.
Angie Canepa, one of the special prosecutors, said at a Wednesday evening press conference she would be around when the final trial comes. “I’m not going anywhere,” Canepa said.
Still, since both cases are technically pending and George IV has yet to be sentenced, Pike County Prosecutor Rob Junk said at the same press conference the prosecution could not comment on Billy’s case — or whether he may be persuaded to enter a guilty plea now that George IV’s trial has played out.
Alan Lewis, who retired from the Pike County Sheriff’s Office and was there for the early days of the case and assisted with the investigation, also alluded to Billy’s case at the press conference.
“He’s next, and we’re going to win that one, too,” Lewis said.
On the night of April 21 and the morning of April 22, 2016, eight members of the Rhoden family were fatally shot. They included Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40; Dana Rhoden, 37; Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 20; Hanna Rhoden, 19; Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16; Hannah Gilley, 20; Kenneth Rhoden, 44; and Gary Rhoden, 38.
More than two years later, then serving as attorney general, DeWine announced the arrests of George IV, his brother Jake Wagner, mother Angela Wagner, and father Billy in November 2018. All four Wagners initially entered pleas of not guilty. The motive behind the massacre stemmed from a custody battle between Jake and Hanna over their daughter, prosecutors said.
But Jake and Angela have since switched their pleas to guilty, striking a deal where prosecutors would not seek the death penalty if Jake and Angela also testified against George IV and Billy. Jake pleaded guilty to all charges in April 2021, and Angela pleaded guilty to 14 charges — excluding the murder charges — in September 2021.
Both testified against George IV in court in October.