WAVERLY, Ohio — Still in jail with no opportunity for bond five years after eight members of the Rhoden family were killed in April 2016, suspects in the Pike County murders could face new accusations if a judge allows the information into evidence.
In a court document filed in February, prosecutors wrote they hope to show evidence that George "Billy" Wagner III threatened others related to the murder case, including members of law enforcement.
The documents also claim his son, Jake Wagner, was violent toward Hanna Rhoden, with whom he had a child. Prosecutors wrote Jake threatened, chased and strangled Hanna, and threatened to kill her and "put her body where it would never be found."
Jake Wagner, along with his mother, Angela Wagner; his father, George "Billy" Wagner III; and his brother, George Wagner IV, stand charged in the deaths of eight members of the Rhoden family. The Wagners are accused of murdering the family in their Pike County homes in 2016.
It’s not clear what role Jake Wagner is suspected of playing in the slayings; His trial date has been set for August 30. Investigators have said they believe a custody dispute between Jake and Hanna was the main motive for the murders.
On Monday during a hearing, Billy Wagner's defense team said they plan to object to each of the 34 pieces of evidence submitted by prosecutors for consideration. Defense attorney Mark Collins said they plan to question some expert testimony on pieces of evidence that the state wants to include as well.
"They do not have an actual firearm that was allegedly used in this situation," said Collins. "They have shell casings they found at numerous scenes, your honor. Then they are compared to shell casings found on my client's family property some two years later."
Dates have not been set for hearings that will determine whether any of the new allegations and evidence will be allowed in a trial, nor have any of the Wagners other than Jake had a trial date set.
Monday, Billy's attorneys mentioned this and pointed out that, despite Billy's filing for a reasonable bond in 2020, he and other members of his family has been locked up for 29 months straight.
"Mr. Wagner has some frustrations," said Collins. "The fact that he's been incarcerated for 29 months and does not have a trial date, he would like a trial date. We've talked to him about that...he just wants the court to be aware that he would like this to go as fast as possible under the reasonable constraints."
Trial dates and hearings have been consistently delayed over the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Marty Pinales, a local defense attorney who is not affiliated with the Pike County case, said it's not uncommon for so-called "other acts" evidence to be presented for consideration but typically not everything makes it to trial.
"Prosecutors sometimes will go out on a very thin limb when they're preparing a case because they get so wrapped up in their case that they think that the person is very bad and they have the duty to bring it to the attention of the jury."
He added that prosecutors also often "sling it and see if it sticks to the wall."