WAVERLY, Ohio (LEX 18) — George Wagner IV, the elder son of an Ohio family accused in the 2016 massacre of eight people from another family, pleaded not guilty Wednesday morning to a slate of charges against him.
Wagner IV, 27, also was denied bail during the proceedings, despite his attorney arguing he should be released ahead of trial. The judge agreed with prosecutors that the multiple capital offenses and possibility of a death sentence meant he should be held without bail.
A day earlier, 26-year-old Edward “Jake” Wagner pleaded not guilty to a raft of charges after a lengthy arraignment. He was held without bail.
In both cases, the judge approved a gag order submitted by both prosecutors and defense attorneys precluding court officials and agents of the court from from talking to media.
Investigators have said the families involved had been longtime friends and that the crime was precipitated by a child custody dispute along with “an undercurrent of drugs.”
The brothers along with their parents — 47-year-old George Wagner III and 48-year-old Angela Wagner — each are facing eight counts of aggravated murder. DeWine said the charges “include death penalty specifications for all four suspects.” All four also face a slew of other charges, including conspiracy, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, tampering with evidence, unlawful possession of a dangerous ordinance, forgery, unauthorized use of property, interception of wire, oral, or electronic communications, obstructing justice, and aggravated burglary.
Wagner III was arrested Nov. 13 in Lexington outside of Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital on the city’s far north side while the others were taken into custody in Ohio.
The Wagners are accused of planning and carrying out the 2016 shooting murders of eight people well-known to the family. The victims were identified as Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40, his ex-wife Dana Manley Rhoden, 37, and their three children, Hanna May Rhoden, 19, Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16, and Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 20. Frankie Rhoden’s fiancée, Hannah “Hazel” Gilley, 20, also were killed, along with the elder Christopher Rhoden’s brother Kenneth Rhoden, 44, and cousin Gary Rhoden, 38. Three young children were left unharmed.
Authorities said Hanna Rhoden had been in a custody dispute with Jake Wagner over a child they had together.
“Custody of that young child plays a role in this case,” DeWine said Tuesday.