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Jury to start deliberations after getting the case in Wagner trial

WKRC Cincinnati 11/30/2022 James Pilcher, WKRC
© Provided by WKRC Cincinnati

WAVERLY, Ohio (WKRC) – Jurors in the murder trial of George Wagner IV started their involvement back in July and August when they were initially interviewed in a hot gym for jury selections in what was then a death penalty case.

Caption: Jury to start deliberations after getting the case in Wagner trial (WKRC/Provided)

Starting Wednesday morning, the nine women and three men who made it through finally get their chance to decide Wagner’s fate after more than 10 weeks of testimony – making it one of the longest criminal trials in Ohio history.

Wagner is charged with aggravated murder and other crimes in the April 2016 killings of eight members of the Rhoden and Gilley families.

The case has taken more than three and a half months to get to this point with prosecutors laying out in detail all the evidence collected during the 2 1/2-year investigation.

Victims included Chris Rhoden Sr., his ex-wife Dana Manley-Rhoden, their children Frankie Rhoden, Hanna Rhoden and Chris Rhoden Jr.. Chris Sr.’s brother and cousin Kenneth and Gary Rhoden, and Frankie Rhoden’s fiancée Hannah Hazel Gilley.

The jury meets at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday to begin their deliberations after hearing final closing arguments and nearly five hours of legal instructions from Pike County Common Pleas Court Judge Randy Deering.

Early Tuesday, Wagner's defense lawyer John Parker reiterated in his closing what Wagner himself said from the stand in his own defense that he was not there and did not know about the plot to kill the Rhodens.

“You folks stand between the power of the government and the man named George Wagner,” Parker told the jury. “So, you’ve seen the power of the government. And in this particular case they've overreached when it comes to George."

Prosecutors allege the Wagner family killed the Rhodens to gain custody of the daughter George’s brother Jake shared with one of the victims, Hanna Rhoden.

Jake Wagner and his mother Angela both pleaded guilty to all charges or at least conspiracy last year, and both testified against George in this trial. They said he knew about the plan and went along that night.

Jake’s plea deal included a provision that the death penalty be lifted against his family were he to testify truthfully – those death specifications were lifted in the last two weeks.

George testified on his own behalf in the trial as well, denying involvement or even knowing his family was guilty until Jake’s plea deal.

Parker’s closing was followed by a passionate final rebuttal from special prosecutor Andy Wilson, who said the jury should find George Wagner was part of the conspiracy.

“And when you make that finding, when you look at all our evidence, he’s guilty,” Wilson said, pointing at Wagner. “At that point by law you’re required to find him guilty. And that’s what you’ll do because that’s what he is.”

Deering read through 150 pages of jury instructions, which took nearly five hours. The jury then voted to retire for the evening and start fresh in the morning. They were instructed to elect a foreman first.

Given jurors have 22 charges to work through, it is unknown how long it will take them to reach a verdict. The five alternates are also to report, but not be part of the deliberations.

Parker also spent a lot of time Tuesday casting doubt on the testimony of Wagner's brother Jake and mother Angela.

“They’re liars, they’re con artists, they’re thieves,” Parker said. “You’ve heard testimony from Angela about the way she’s conducted herself throughout her life.

“She’s an arsonist,” and sold painted dogs as purebreds as part of another scheme, Parker said.

Wilson referred to the wiretapped recordings agents from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations made of George talking with his family.

“Do you think for one second the guy you heard on that recording was sitting this out? No way. No way,” Wilson said. “Let’s use his words his own words – he was coming, and he was bringing hell with him.”

Local 12 is on the scene in Waverly throughout the deliberations and will update on air and online when there is a verdict.

Jury to start deliberations after getting the case in Wagner trial
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