Wagner Gets Life in Slaying of 8 Family Members

'I hope your life is long and miserable,' victim's sister tells Ohio man
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 30, 2022 5:06 PM CST
Updated Dec 19, 2022 3:02 PM CST
Jury Returns Guilty Verdict in Slayings of 8 Family Members
The Piketon, Ohio, property where Christopher Rhoden Sr. and Gary Rhoden were killed in 2016.   (Ty Wright/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP)
UPDATE Dec 19, 2022 3:02 PM CST

George Wagner IV has been sentenced to life in prison with no hope of parole for his role in the murders of eight people in southern Ohio in 2016. The 31-year-old showed no emotion as he was ordered to serve eight life sentences plus 121 years at a hearing Monday, NBC reports. Wagner was found guilty of eight counts of aggravated murder last month. Prosecutors said he helped his father and brother when they killed eight members of the Rhoden family, though he wasn't accused of shooting anybody. Some of the victims' loved ones spoke in court Monday. "There's a special place in hell for you and your entire family," said Bobby Jo Manley, sister of victim Dana Rhoden. "I hope your life is long and miserable. I hope you think of my family and what you have done every day for the rest of your miserable existence."

Nov 30, 2022 5:06 PM CST

Jurors convicted a man Wednesday in the killings of eight people from another Ohio family after weighing his denials and other testimony against the word of witnesses, including his brother and mother, who previously pleaded guilty for their roles. George Wagner IV, 31, was found guilty of eight counts of aggravated murder in the 2016 shootings of seven adults and a teenager from the Rhoden family in southern Ohio's Pike County, the AP reports. Prosecutors said the slayings, which initially spurred speculation about drug cartel involvement, stemmed from a dispute over custody of Wagner's niece. The shootings at three mobile homes and a camper near Piketon in April 2016 terrified residents and led to one of the state’s most extensive criminal investigations.

Wagner denied knowledge of his family's involvement in the crime and testified that he wouldn't have let it happen if he had known. Prosecutors argued that he did know, participated in the planning, and should therefore be convicted in the killings. Though they didn't accuse him of shooting anyone, prosecutors said that Wagner was with his brother and father when they went to the homes, that he went inside with them, and that he helped his brother move two bodies. His younger brother, Edward "Jake" Wagner, pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and other charges and agreed to testify against George and their parents in a deal to help the family avoid potential death sentences. Mother Angela Wagner pleaded guilty to helping plan the slayings. Their father, George "Billy" Wagner III, pleaded not guilty and awaits trial.

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The victims were 40-year-old Christopher Rhoden Sr.; his ex-wife, 37-year-old Dana Rhoden; their three children, 20-year-old Clarence "Frankie" Rhoden, 19-year-old Hanna Rhoden, and 16-year-old Christopher Jr.; Clarence Rhoden's fiance, 20-year-old Hannah Gilley; Christopher Rhoden Sr.'s brother, 44-year-old Kenneth Rhoden; and a cousin, 38-year-old Gary Rhoden. Most were shot repeatedly in the head. Prosecutors say the Wagner family planned the killings for months, motivated by a dispute over custody of the daughter Jake Wagner had with Hanna Rhoden. Authorities said that child was staying with the Wagners when the killings happened. Three other young children from the Rhoden family who were there were not hurt. Jake Wagner pleaded guilty on the fifth anniversary of the killings and apologized in court. He has not been sentenced, but his lawyer said he understood that he will spend his life in prison. Prosecutors recommended a 30-year sentence for Angela Wagner.

(More Rhoden family massacre stories.)

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