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December hearing set for request to drop murder charges against Pike County suspect

George Wagner IV wants murder charges dismissed
Posted at 11:36 AM, Oct 26, 2021

WAVERLY — A Pike County judge will soon hear a request to drop the murder charges and death penalty specifications against one of the Pike County massacre suspects, after his attorneys argued there is evidence George Wagner IV didn't shoot or kill anyone in the 2016 attack.

On Monday, Judge Randy Deering ordered a hearing for Dec. 22 in regard to several motions in the case, including the motion to dismiss the aggravated murder charges.

In a September court filing, Wagner's attorneys argued new evidence showed he did not shoot and kill anyone and prosecutors "hold the death penalty over the head of George Wagner who did not kill anybody while [they] struck a remarkable plea bargain with the actual killer of at least five victims who also shot a sixth victim."

Motion to dismiss George Wagner IV murder charges by WCPO 9 News on Scribd

The filing came months after Wagner's younger brother, Edward "Jake" Wagner pleaded guilty to murder and reportedly told prosecutors he killed at least five of the victims. That happened on the fifth anniversary of the murders. The plea deal would take the death penalty off the table for the Wagner family, as long as Jake testified against them.

George Wagner IV's attorneys, John Parker and Richard Nash, Jr., argue in that September filing that the case against him should not be a capital, or death penalty, case.

His mother, Angela, later pleaded guilty to several charges related to planning the murders and interfering with the investigation, including conspiracy.

Prosecutors say Wagner, his parents, and his brother planned the murder of eight members of the Rhoden and Gilley families in April 2016 because of an ongoing custody battle between Jake and Hanna Rhoden over their young daughter. Hanna Rhoden was one of the victims.

The victims are:

  • Christopher Rhoden, Sr. (40)
  • Dana Rhoden (37)
  • Hannah Gilley (20)
  • Christopher Rhoden, Jr. (16)
  • Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden (20)
  • Gary Rhoden (37)
  • Hanna Rhoden (19)
  • Kenneth Rhoden (44)

All of the Pike County massacre victims were shot in the head at point-blank range, and seven of the eight were shot multiple times, according to preliminary autopsy reports viewed by the WCPO I-Team.

George Wagner IV and his dad, George "Billy" Wagner III remain the only two family members charged without a plea deal in the case.

The son's case remains on track for an April 2022 trial, as of October's hearing. The December hearing will address the motion to dismiss aggravated murder charges and other questions of evidence and testimony ahead of that trial.