NewsPike County Murder Trial


Pike County murder trial | Emergency responders testify about chaotic scenes

George Wagner IV motions hearing
Posted at 9:08 AM, Sep 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-15 12:40:33-04

WAVERLY, Ohio — The murder trial for a man accused of killing eight people in Pike County in 2016 is expected to hear from more first responders as it enters its fourth day.

In the trial's fourth day, enforcement, including the current Pike County sheriff, took the witness stand, though many opted out of being recorded on video or audio.

George Wagner IV — along with his mother Angela, father George "Billy" Wagner and brother Edward "Jake" Wagner — is accused of shooting and killing the Rhoden family members "execution-style." The family's bodies were found on April 22, 2016. He faces eight charges of aggravated murder, along with other charges associated with tampering with evidence, conspiracy and forgery.

Found dead that day were 40-year-old Christopher Rhoden Sr., 37-year-old Dana Rhoden, 20-year-old Hannah "Hazel" Gilley, 16-year-old Christopher Rhoden Jr., 20-year-old Clarence "Frankie" Rhoden, 37-year-old Gary Rhoden, 19-year-old Hanna May Rhoden, and 44-year-old Kenneth Rhoden.

The trial is the first time a person has faced a jury for the deaths of the Rhoden family six years ago.

The first witness called to the stand, Sheriff's Deputy Adam Ball, opted out of being recorded.

During his testimony, Ball, who has worked with the Pike County Sheriff's Office since 2015, described the events of April 22, 2016 as he was called to the scenes where the Rhodens were found.

When Ball walked into dispatch that morning, he said the dispatcher was in the process of consoling someone; the dispatcher turned to Ball and told him to just go west on 32 and that she'd fill him in as he drove.

"I really wasn't sure what I was responding to at that time," he said.

When he arrived at the home of Chris Sr., he said "a distraught female on scene" told him there were two more people dead in a second location next door, at Frankie and Hannah Hazel's home.

Ball said he and another officer, Deputy Morgan Music, went into Chris Sr.'s trailer, where he saw evidence a disturbance had happened and bloody drag marks on the floor. He described crawling, with fellow officers, over furniture and through a treadmill to avoid disturbing the crime scene.

In the bedroom, he said he found two people on the floor and checked their necks for pulses.

It was obvious the two were dead, said Ball.

From there, officers backtracked outside and locked down the trailer. Outside, the woman he'd spoken with told him she was worried there was a third crime scene down the road.

He testified that, while checking Chris Sr.'s property, he discovered an "extensive" marijuana grow operation in a garage, an out building and a semi trailer. Ball said marijuana grow operations aren't unusual to come across in Pike County and that he'd seen bigger than the operation at Chris Sr.'s home.

Ball, along with now-Pike County Sheriff Tracy Evans, drove down the road to where James Manley had discovered Dana Rhoden's body. Ball then entered the home and became the first person to discover the bodies of Chris Jr., who was just 16, and Hanna May, who was nursing her baby when she was shot dead.

Music, the third witness of the day, also opted out of being recorded during testimony. Music no longer works for the Pike County Sheriff's Office, but was employed there in 2016 and responded to the crime scenes.

He recounted the day, reiterating much of what Ball said before him. He said he remained at Chris Sr.'s property while Ball traveled to Dana's home; after Ball returned, the pair searched a garage on Chris Sr.'s property where they found blood on the door to a loft above the garage.

In the loft, they found the marijuana grow operation.

Music said the pair also discovered a camera recording system, but the recording device was missing.

Pike County Sheriff Tracy Evans was called to the witness stand next, but opted out of being recorded.

Evans was not the sheriff when the Rhoden family members were found murdered — the sheriff then was Charles Reader, who is currently serving a jail sentence after he pleaded guilty to theft in office and tampering with evidence charges. Reader was sentenced in March 2021 to three years in prison.

Next to take the stand was Timothy Dickerson, the current director of Pike County Emergency Management; in 2016 when the murders happened, however, he was a Major with the Pike County Sheriff's Office.

Dickerson specifically detailed the scene he was called to investigate — Dana Rhoden's house, inside of which were the bodies of Hanna May and Chris Jr. While he was in Hanna May's room, he said there was a sound, and he saw a baby's arms rise up from the bed in which Hanna May laid dead.

Dickerson said he called for a medic, who came in to retrieve the baby, taking it to the ambulance. After that, Dickerson said he didn't know what happened to the child.

"I learned later that the baby was 3-days-old, it was very, very tiny," he said.

When he discovered the child, Dickerson said its diaper had blood on it and the baby was lying next to Hanna May's stomach area, near her breast, which was exposed. Dickerson said he could not say for sure whether Hanna May had been breastfeeding when she was killed, but admitted that it could have been possible.

The end of Dickerson's testimony focused primarily on whether or not the crime scene at Dana's house was located within Pike County, or if it was across the county line in Scioto County. Dickerson said he believed it was in Pike County, based on conversations had on April 22, 2016 and the days that followed.

Richard Nash, one of George's defense attorneys, argued that Dana's house was in Scioto County. The same disagreement happened between Nash and Evans during Evans' testimony.

From there, prosecutors called Gary Michael Mosley, a former Piketon officer who responded to the scene in 2016. Mosley opted not to be shown on camera, but consented to audio recording.

Mosley said he was right behind Dickerson, heading to the crime scenes, when he noticed people frantically gesturing to officers from the front yard of a home. The two of them stopped at the home, and Mosley said they frantically told officers there was a baby inside the home crying.

Attorneys showed Mosley several aerial photos of Dana's house — the property at which he and Dickerson stopped that day. Mosley described how officers approached the building and meticulously detailed how he and Dickerson cleared the mobile home.

"This was a very difficult house to clear because they had an add-on, and all the doorways," said Mosley.

While they cleared the house, Mosley said the cries of a baby could be heard.

Defense attorneys questioned how Mosley moved about the trailer, clearing the building of any danger.

After clearing Dana's home and taping off the residence, Mosley said they were called down to the other crime scenes to help investigate.

Former EMT Miranda Cable took the witness stand next, detailing how she responded to three of the four murder scenes on the morning of April 22, 2016.

"We believed we were responding to a possible domestic violence," said Cable. "They said there may or may not be someone dead on scene and that there may have been an assault."

Cable's unit, out in front, was followed by a second ambulance, she said. That ambulance stopped at the first home while Cable continued on to a second. At that second location, Cable said they were told there were only deceased people on scene, but that someone needed help at a third location.

From there, Cable traveled to Dana's home, where she witnessed an EMT coming out of the home with a baby. The baby was then taken to a hospital in Adams County.

Cable said she was then called back to the first home, where they were told there was another baby in need of help. Her unit traveled to Frankie and Hannah Hazel's home, where they found Ruger, covered in blood.

"I was told the social service workers were concerned that he was found laying between his parents," said Cable. She said there was concern about damage to the baby's ears — like a ruptured eardrum — as a result of the shots fired into his parents.

They took Ruger to the same hospital Kylie was taken to by paramedics earlier, Cable said.

Defense attorneys did not cross examine Cable and court adjourned for the day.

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