You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Jury to begin deliberations Wednesday in George Wagner IV’s trial

WXIX Cincinnati 11/29/2022 Jennifer Edwards Baker, Mike Schell
George Wagner IV, 31, leaves the courtroom during a break in what could be the last week of his trial, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022 in Pike County Common Pleas Court in Waverly, Ohio. His attorneys are Richard M. Nash Jr., left, and John P. Parker, right. The trial started on Aug. 29, 2022. Eight members of the Rhoden family were found shot to death at four different locations on April 21-22, 2016. Wagner’s brother Jake Wagner and mom, Angela Wagner, have already pleaded guilty. George’s dad, George “Billy” Wagner III will go on trial in 2023. © Liz Dufour George Wagner IV, 31, leaves the courtroom during a break in what could be the last week of his trial, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022 in Pike County Common Pleas Court in Waverly, Ohio. His attorneys are Richard M. Nash Jr., left, and John P. Parker, right. The trial started on Aug. 29, 2022. Eight members of the Rhoden family were found shot to death at four different locations on April 21-22, 2016. Wagner’s brother Jake Wagner and mom, Angela Wagner, have already pleaded guilty. George’s dad, George “Billy” Wagner III will go on trial in 2023.

WAVERLY, Ohio (WXIX) - The jury will begin deliberations at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday in the murder trial of George Wagner IV.

Pike County Common Pleas Court Judge Randy Deering read more than 100 pages of instructions to the jurors before asking if they wanted to begin deliberations Tuesday night.

The jury decided they would return on Wednesday.

The prosecution of the state’s largest and most expensive homicide case to date has been voluminous.

Prosecutors say this is the longest-serving jury in any criminal case in Ohio with some 60 witnesses testifying and more than 1,000 trial exhibits over the past three months.

George Wagner’s defense attorney gave his closing argument Tuesday as the jury prepares to decide his fate in the 2016 Pike County massacre case.

Attorney John Parker said prosecutors, who gave a four-and-a-half-hour closing argument on Monday, simply don’t have enough evidence against George.

Pike County massacre: Complete trial coverage

Earlier Tuesday, George Wagner IV’s defense attorney, John Parker, said in his closing argument prosecutors, who gave a four-and-a-half-hour closing argument on Monday, simply don’t have enough evidence against George.

Parker repeatedly rejected what he called the case’s fatal flaw: the prosecution’s contention that the motive in the murders was control and custody of George’s niece, Sophia, the daughter of his brother and one of the murder victims.

‘The state has this theory that they have presented ad nauseam that this is about custody,” he said, dismissing that as “making no sense.

“Have you ever heard of such a thing? No. People don’t kill each other over custody. We have a whole court system to deal with custody. Quite frankly, I don’t think anybody will ever believe this is about custody.”

George and three other members of his family: his brother Jake Wagner, 28, and their parents Angela Wagner, 52, and Billy Wagner, 51, were all indicted on capital murder charges in the April 21-22, 2016 execution-style shootings of eight members of the Rhoden and Gilley families.

George, 31, could spend the rest of his life behind bars if he is convicted on some or all of the 22 charges against him including eight counts of aggravated murder.

The other charges he faces are conspiracy to commit aggravated murder, four counts of aggravated burglary, three counts of tampering with evidence, one count each of forgery, unauthorized use of property, interception of wire, oral or electronic communications, obstructing justice, and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.

The victims are Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40; his older brother, Kenneth Rhoden, 44; his cousin, Gary Rhoden; Chris Rhoden Sr.’s former wife, Dana Lynn Rhoden, 37, and their children: Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 20, Hanna Rhoden, 19, Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16, and Frankie’s fiancé, Hannah “Hazel” Gilley, 20.

George is the first one to be tried for the massacre.

His defense lost a request last week for his acquittal due to a lack of evidence.

But the death penalty is now off the table as a possible punishment should he be convicted of any of the aggravated murder charges.

George’s mother and brother pleaded guilty to their roles in the killings last year and agreed to testify for the state against him in exchange for the death penalty being dropped.

George’s father, Billy Wagner, is continuing to fight the charges and will be tried next year. He still faces the death penalty.

Like his father, George Wagner IV has pleaded not guilty.

Parker says Geoge was not even there on the night of the slayings.

He spent a large amount of time on Tuesday attacking the character of Jake Wagner and Angela Wagner and their testimonies.

Parker called parts of Jake’s testimony “Fantasy. This is part of Jake’s fantasy.”

He said the true motive of the killings was not custody of Sophia but abuse concerns both Jake and Angela had about the then-2-year-old while she was in the care of her mother.

Parker claimed Jake Wagner killed all eight of the victims, not just the five he confessed and testified to.

It was Jake, not his father, according to Parker, who killed Chris Rhoden Sr., Gary Rhoden and Kenneth Rhoden along with the other five Jake admitted to shooting to death (Hanna Rhoden, her mother Dana Rhoden, her brothers Chris Rhoden Jr and Frankie Rhoden and Frankie Rhoden’s fiancee, Hanna “Hazel” Gilley).

He suggested George’s father, Billy Wagner, dropped him off in a pickup truck Jake Wagner said he purchased specifically to drive to and from murder scenes and left him to commit the murders in the rural area in Piketon that straddles the Pike and Scioto county lines.

Parker then told the jury the two brothers were very different. George preferred to be hunting and spending time with his son, Parker said, holding up photos.

Jake, on the other hand, “is a very disturbed young man,” Parker said.

Prosecutors have repeatedly argued George is complicit in the killings even though he didn’t actually shoot anyone. They say he is still eligible for aggravated murder convictions and should be convicted because he actively participated in the planning and covering up of the killings.

Parker closed his argument by reminding the jury George was not even at the crime scenes but, if they believe he was, they have to remember he had no intent to kill and was only there to protect Jake from their father.

In a surprise move, George took the stand in his own defense earlier this month and insisted he is not guilty of any of the killings.

George testified his family never approached him about the murder plot and he was asleep the night of the slayings.

Had he known, he claimed he would have stopped them.

“I don’t know how, but I would have never let it happen,” he testified.

Under cross-examination, George said his mother and brother both lied during their testimony and their 2021 confessions to prosecutors.

Parker told the jury it was hard for George to testify given his background. He testified that he was homeschooled by his mother, taught by his father to commit crimes like arson and robbery as a young child and married his ex-wife when they were both very young.

George “broke every rule his father taught him by getting up here and telling the truth. He did it for himself quite obviously but he did it for his son. Jake and Angela have destroyed this man’s life - and his son’s life,” his attorney said.

Parker closed his argument by reminding the jury George was not even at the crime scenes but, if they believe he was, they have to remember he had no intent to kill and was only there to protect Jake from their father.

In rebuttal for the state, Special Prosecutor Andy Wilson spent more than an hour attacking the defense.

He started by telling the jury George’s defense attorney “destroyed” his case.

George was either at the crime scenes or he wasn’t, Wilson insisted.

If his attorneys have two defenses, “there is no credible defense,” he said.

Wilson then loudly declared “He’s guilty” referring to George as he said the name of each of the eight victims with respect to the aggravated murder charges.

Wilson conceded that George may not have pulled the trigger but “you better believe that he is up to his eyeballs in this with his family.”

Anyone who aids, abets and assists someone who commits murder can also be charged with murder, Wilson reminded the jury.

The Wagners’ claim that Sophia was being abused during her time with her mother was part of their ‘playbook,” Wilson alleged.

The Wagners used that to justify the murders.

“You’ll see what this case is really all about. It’s about power and control. It’s about control.”

See a spelling or grammar error in our story? Please include the title when you click here to report it.

AdChoices
AdChoices
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon