Pike County massacre hearing gives glimpse into scope of case

Posted at 10:52 AM, Jan 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-17 18:29:31-05

WAVERLY, Ohio — Prosecutors have already shared 30 GB of material with defense lawyers for one of the suspects accused of killing eight members of the Rhoden family, and attorneys said that's just the "first chunk" of evidence and other documents prepared ahead of the trial.

George "Billy" Wagner III appeared in Pike County court for a pretrial hearing Thursday. He is charged with 22 crimes, including eight counts of aggravated murder, in the Pike County massacre. He pleaded not guilty in early December and is being held without bond in the Butler County Jail.

Defense attorney Mark Collins didn't specify what materials prosecutors shared with him so far in the discovery — the period before a trial when the parties gather their evidence — but he said he believed the 30 GB he received Thursday "is a small percentage" of what prosecutors will be bringing.

But how much could that be? Thirty GB could represent thousands of photos, hours of video or reams of digital pages. According to Verizon Wireless, their customers' devices use an average between 1 and 2 GB per month.

Since the discovery is ongoing, Judge Randy Deering granted a request from the defense Thursday to extend the period when they can file motions in the case.

Deering also granted a motion from prosecutors to order Wagner to have no contact, direct or indirect, with his co-defendants. His wife, Angela, and their sons, George IV and Edward "Jake" Wagner, are also charged with planning the crimes and carrying out the killings. They have also pleaded not guilty and have also been given no-contact orders.

At other pretrial hearings in the case this month, the judge also issued no-contact orders to Billy's mother, Fredericka Wagner, and Angela's mother, Rita Jo Newcomb, who are both accused of lying to an investigative grand jury to cover up the crimes.

Authorities arrested the defendants in November after more than two years of investigating the massacre. Christopher Rhoden Sr., Dana Rhoden, Hannah Gilley, Christopher Rhoden Jr., Clarence "Frankie" Rhoden, Gary Rhoden, Hanna Rhoden and Kenneth Rhoden were all found dead from being shot at point-blank range on April 22, 2016.

Gov. Mike DeWine, then the attorney general, said that a custody dispute between Jake Wagner and Hanna Rhoden "plays a role in this case."

Billy Wagner's next pretrial hearing is scheduled for March 29.