Pike County massacre suspects attended the funeral of one of the eight victims they allegedly killed


An Ohio man and his two grown sons who are accused of killing eight members of a rival family in 2016 over a custody dispute attended their victims’ funerals, recent testimony revealed.

George Wagner IV, 30, is the first of his family to stand trial for the Pike County massacre of the Rhoden family that he allegedly carried out with his father, George ‘Billy’ Wagner III, his brother, Edward ‘Jake’ Wagner and his mother, Angela Wagner.

Testimony on Friday revealed that at least three members of the Wagner family attended the funerals of the Rhoden family less than a week after they were slaughtered while they slept. 

Eight members of the Rhoden family were found shot to death on April 22, 2016, at different residences in Pike, County, Ohio, but the Wagner family was not implicated in the murders until 2018. 

George Wagner IV, 30, is the first of his family to stand trial for the Pike County massacre of the Rhoden family that he allegedly carried out with his father, his brother and his mother

James 'Cody' Manley, the cousin of one of the victims, testified Friday that he saw the Wagners at the funerals for the Rhoden family back in 2016 less than a week after allegedly killing them

James ‘Cody’ Manley, the cousin of one of the victims, testified Friday that he saw the Wagners at the funerals for the Rhoden family back in 2016 less than a week after allegedly killing them

James ‘Cody’ Manley, a family member of the Rhoden’s, took the stand on Friday, and testified that he discovered his Rhoden and fiancé Hannah ‘Hazel’ Gilley, both 20, shot to death in their room. 

Their six-month-old baby, found covered in blood on Gilley’s chest, had been nursing when her mother was shot in the head and face. 

‘I just froze,’ he said on the stand on Friday. ‘I saw things I didn’t want to see.’

Less than a week after the horrific mass murder, Manley attended the funeral of 38-year-old Gary Rhoden, another cousin who had been killed in the shootings, and said he remembers seeing the Wagner family. 

Archived photos recently published by the Cincinnati Enquirer show George Wagner, his brother Jake and his father Billy walking into the Greenup, Kentucky, funeral home on April 27, 2016.

Gary Rhoden’s funeral was the first of eight funerals held for the family. Manley testified that he saw the Wagners at the other victims’ funerals as well.  

Manley is the son of James and April Manley, the brother and sister-in-law of Dana Manley-Rhoden, who was killed in the shootings. He was best friends with his cousin Frankie Rhoden who was also shot dead. 

When the trial began last month, special prosecutor Angela Canepa relayed the bloody saga and argued that the Wagners spent months planning the killings and targeted some of the victims, but ‘some sadly were killed because they happened to be there.’

Prosecutors have alleged the murders were committed by four members of the Wagner family, and while George Wagner IV is not believed to have killed anyone, he allegedly participated by voting in favor of the murders.

His brother, Edward ‘Jake’ Wagner and their mother, have both pleaded guilty to the murders, a plot that was allegedly planned so they could have full custody of Jake’s daughter, who is shared with Hanna Rhoden.

Hanna, 19, was shot multiple times as she slept next to her newborn baby, after Jake Wagner tried to convince her to agree to share custody of their child.

‘I won’t sign papers ever,’ Rhoden wrote in a private Facebook message in 2015, months before the killings. ‘They will have to kill me first.’

George Wagner IV arrived at the courthouse on Monday for opening statements

George Wagner IV arrived at the courthouse on Monday for opening statements

Hanna Rhoden, 19, was killed as she slept after Jake Wagner tried to convince her to agree to share custody. Jake's brother George Wagner IV is the first person on trial

Hanna Rhoden, 19, was killed as she slept after Jake Wagner tried to convince her to agree to share custody. Jake’s brother George Wagner IV is the first person on trial

All of the victims were shot in the head multiple times while they slept with Jake saying he was ‘personally responsible’ for five of the deaths.

Hanna’s father Christopher Rhoden Sr, 40, mother Dana Rhoden, 37, and brothers Clarence, 20, and Christopher Jr, 16, were also killed in the massacre.

Clarence ‘Frankie’ Rhoden’s fiancée, Hannah Gilley, 20, Christopher Sr.’s brother, Kenneth Rhoden, 44, and cousin Gary Rhoden, 38, were also shot dead across four different homes across rural Ohio.

Three children that were at the scene of the slaying were spared, Clarence’s sons Brentley, 4, and Ruger Lee, six months, and Hanna’s daughter Kyle who was five days old at the time.

The brutal executions shook the rural Ohio county and launched one of the state’s most extensive criminal investigations, which led to the Wagners’ arrest more than two years later.

Four people in the Wagner family have been accused of taking part in the brutal murders.

Defense attorneys for George IV insist that he had nothing to do with the murders, saying he did not shoot or kill anyone on that night in 2016.

His mother, Angela Jo Wagner, and his younger brother, Edward ‘Jake’ Wagner, pleaded guilty last year to their roles in the killings.

Jake Wagner was convicted of eight counts of murder and 15 other charges including gun specifications, conspiracy, burglary, possession of dangerous ordnance and tampering with evidence.

The father, George ‘Billy’ Wagner III, is expected to stand trial at a later date. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.

Wagner IV has also pleaded not guilty, and his lawyers argued the confessions of his brother and mother last year prove he didn’t shoot and kill anyone.

George Wagner IV

Edward 'Jake' Wagner

Edward ‘Jake’ Wagner, (right) previously pleaded guilty to the murder of Hanna Rhoden, with whom he had a daughter with, and seven of her family members. He has been sentenced to eight life terms. His brother, George Wagner IV, is on trial. He has pleaded not guilty 

Special Prosecutor Angela Canepa agreed with the defense in a December 2021 hearing that Wagner IV did not kill anyone.

But in the state of Ohio, a person can be sentenced to death for an aggravated murder conviction if they help plan it or cover it up.

Jake himself was handed eight full life sentences without the option of parole in 2021 after agreeing to a plea deal with no possibility of the death penalty for himself and his family members.

He pleaded guilty to 23 felony charges, including eight of murder, while his mother pleaded guilty to several counts of aggravated burglary, tampering with evidence and other charges.

Both Jake and his mother agreed to testify against the other defendants and are expected to be involved in the upcoming trial.

All of the victims were shot in the head multiple times while they slept with Jake saying he was ‘personally responsible’ for five of the deaths.

Hanna’s father Christopher Rhoden Sr, 40, mother Dana Rhoden, 37, and brothers Clarence, 20, and Christopher Jr, 16, were also killed in the massacre.

Clarence 'Frankie' Rhoden, 20, and his fiancée, Hannah Gilley, 20, were shot dead while sleeping with their child

Clarence ‘Frankie’ Rhoden, 20, and his fiancée, Hannah Gilley, 20, were shot dead while sleeping with their child

The Wagner family fled to Alaska after the murders. From left to right: Edward 'Jake' Wagner, Angela Wagner and George Wagner IV are pictured outside a supermarket in 2017

The Wagner family fled to Alaska after the murders. From left to right: Edward ‘Jake’ Wagner, Angela Wagner and George Wagner IV are pictured outside a supermarket in 2017

It took investigators six years to get to the bottom of the cold-blooded plot, which was organized to execute anyone who might stand in the way of Jake getting custody of his daughter.

He dated Hanna when she was 13, and got her pregnant at 15, but the relationship ended, and she had a second child with another man.

Jake then began to pressure her about the custody of their daughter, and he had been taking care of Sophia at the time of the murders.

Investigators claim the family bought ammunition, a magazine clip, brass catchers and a bug detector to prepare for the crimes.

It is claimed that they constructed a homemade silencer that was used in the shootings and used ‘counter-surveillance devices’ on the properties as well as tampering with phones, cameras and parts of a home security system.

Forged documents were found on the computer purporting that Hanna Rhoden had agreed to share custody.

The Wagners took phones from six of the victims, as well as a recording device and trail cameras.

The Wagner family lived near the scenes of the killings at the time, but moved 4,000 miles away in June 2021 to a home (pictured above) in Kenai, Alaska

The Wagner family lived near the scenes of the killings at the time, but moved 4,000 miles away in June 2021 to a home (pictured above) in Kenai, Alaska

Christopher Sr is the only victim who was believed to have been awake when they were shot, suffering nine gunshot wounds in his forearm, torso and cheek.

His brother Gary was shot twice in the head and a third time in the face, with an autopsy report saying a ‘muzzle stain’ was left on his head, suggesting at one point a shot was fired while the gun was pressed against him.

Dana Rhoden was carefully shot four times around her head and a fifth time from under her chin.

She was sharing a trailer with Christopher Jr and Hanna who were both shot in the head multiple times.

Frankie Rhoden and Hannah Gilley were also shot in the head, but their six-month-old child, who was sleeping between the couple, was spared.

Hannah was shot five times in total, with one shot hitting her left eye and Kenneth Rhoden was shot only once, with the bullet entering his right eye.

In a 911 call following the shootings, a woman sounded out of breath as she frantically told a dispatcher: ‘I think my brother-in-law’s dead … There’s blood all over the house.’

‘There’s blood all over the house. My brother-in-law is in the bedroom and it looks like someone has beat the hell out of him.’

Crime scene investigators were first called to Union Hill Road at 8.21am, when seven of the victims were found shot to death in the head ‘execution style’.

The first three homes where bodies were found are located within a couple of miles of one another on a sparsely populated stretch of road, while the eighth body – a man – was found in a house within 30 miles just before 2pm.

The Wagner family moved to Kenai, Alaska, after the killings, with Jake Wagner taking his daughter with them, but returned to Ohio in 2018 when they ran out of money. They were arrested in November of that year.

At the time, the family said they were moving to escape what they claimed was unfair speculation that they were responsible for the murders.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk