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Pike County massacre: State, defense rest their case in murder trial of George Wagner IV

WLWT Cincinnati 11/18/2022 WLWT Digital Staff
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The state and defense have officially rested their cases in the Pike County murder trial of George Wagner IV.

See a clip from Friday's proceedings in the video player above

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On Friday, the state announced it will not call any further witnesses and officially rested its case.

The defense said they have no further witnesses and rests, subject to ruling on a few exhibits of evidence, which does not require a jury to be present.

The next step will be closing arguments, which Judge Randy Deering said he expects to be lengthy. Deering said he believes between closing arguments and instructions to the jury, it would take two days.

He said since next week will be short due to the holiday, Deering instructed the jury to return on Monday, Nov. 28.

At that point, the jury will hear closing arguments from both sides before getting the case.

The development comes after two days of testimony from George Wagner IV himself.

Wagner is on trial in connection with the execution-style murders of eight members of the Rhoden family in 2016.

On Wednesday, Wagner testified in his own defense and said he's not to blame.

"Were you aware at any time that Jake and your dad and your mom were planning to kill the Rhodens?" asked Wagner's attorney John Parker.

"No," Wagner said.

"Did you know of any reason that your family wanted to kill the Rhodens?" Parker said.

"No," Wagner said. "I never would have believed my family would be capable of doing something of this magnitude."

Prior to saying exactly the opposite of what his brother Jake and their mother Angela already said under oath, George Wagner testified that not only did he not know about plans for the Pike County massacre, he said he would have stopped it if he could.

"If you had known they were planning this or talking about it or even discussing it, what would have been your reaction or what would you have done?" Parker said.

"I don’t know exactly how, but I would have never let it happen," Wagner said.

Before that bombshell testimony, George Wagner described a dysfunctional home life filled with illegal behavior – a life he said he tried to leave behind more than once.

"What were you thinking when you left?" Parker said

"I was just tired of putting up with my mom and dad," Wagner said.

Parker asked Wagner how many instances of stealing things — like laptops and even hot tubs — he could recall.

"How many do you want me to go into? I could go for days," Wagner said.

But the 31-year-old Wagner told jurors he can't believe his family went from being thieves to killers.

"So why did you think they could do something like this?" Parker said.

"Theft is one thing," Wagner said. "Murder is an entirely different thing."

Wagner was back on the witness stand Thursday where his claim of innocence was challenged by prosecutor Angela Canepa during cross-examination.

"What happens to you if you come in here and admit that you, and your brother and your father went up to Union Hill Road that night and then out to Left Fork Road that night and then slaughtered perfectly innocent people?" said Canepa.

"What should happen to anybody is they should have death given to them," Wagner said.

Canepa pointed out multiple discrepancies between statements George made to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents about a year after the Pike County massacre and things he said this week in court.

Canepa ended her line of questioning by drawing a contrast between George and Jake, who confessed last year.

"And the biggest difference, you agree, between you and your brother is that when Jake does wrong things he tells about it and you don't?" Canepa said.

"When we were children, yes," Wagner said.

"I have no other questions, your Honor," Canepa said.

Since there's no DNA evidence connecting George Wagner to any of the crime scenes, jurors will have to decide who they believe: him or his brother and mother, both of whom have already said under oath that George was part of the plot to kill multiple people.

READ THE FULL STORY:Pike County massacre: State, defense rest their case in murder trial of George Wagner IV

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