Pike County massacre suspect was in custody dispute with victim

Posted at 2:23 PM, Nov 13, 2018

CINCINNATI -- The suspects arrested Tuesday in the Pike County massacre have drawn scrutiny since early in the investigation.

One of the eight victims, Hanna Rhoden, had been in a custody dispute with Jake Wagner over a child they had together, according to her grandfather.

"Custody of that young child plays a role in this case," DeWine said Tuesday. 

Wagner, along with his brother, George Wagner IV, and their parents, 47-year-old George "Billy" Wagner III and 48-year-old Angela Wagner, were arrested Tuesday afternoon and are charged with planning and carrying out the eight murders, authorities announced. They are each facing eight charges of aggravated murder with death penalty specifications and other crimes. 

Jake Wagner is also facing charges of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor for allegedly having sexual contact with Hanna when she was 15 and he was 20. 

His maternal and paternal grandmothers were also arrested. DeWine said they attempted to cover up the crimes and mislead authorities.

MORE: 6 arrested in deaths of Rhoden family members

DeWine said the Wagners conspired to kill the Rhodens and cover up their tracks. Evidence shows they spent months planning the crime and studying the victims' habits and routines, according to DeWine. 

"They were brutally and viciously executed," he said,

While speculation swirled about the possible motive and who could be responsible, Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader told WCPO that he believed the killers are locals.

In May of 2017, authorities searched trailers belonging to Jake Wagner, a property belonging to his parents and a farm belonging to his grandmother.

A month later, Dewine, who is now the governor-elect, and Reader announced that authorities were looking for information about the four Wagners. It turned out that they had moved to Alaska.

But little information trickled out after that, until this past August, when Pike County residents once again reported seeing SWAT vehicles at a farm owned by the Wagner family. That prompted unfounded online that arrests had been made in the case.