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Which Locations Will The Jury Visit Ahead Of The Pike County Family Massacre Trial?
A Pike County jury will be taken to several locations pertaining to the murders of seven members of the Rhoden family and Hannah Gilley in 2016 in rural southern Ohio. George Wagner IV is one of several members of his family implicated in the crime.
Jurors will get to see several locations where the 2016 massacre of eight people took place in what’s been referred to as the Piketon Family Murders.
The first murder trial is under way as lawyers prepare their opening statements in the case of George Wagner IV, one of four family members accused of brutally killing seven members of the Rhoden family, plus one other victim. Prosecutors say George's brother, Edward “Jake” Wagner – who previously pleaded guilty to eight charges of murder – was embroiled in a heated custody battle with one of the victims, Hanna Rhoden.
The Wagners’ mother, Angela Wagner, also pleaded guilty to lesser charges in connection with the murders. Her husband, George “Billy" Wagner III, pleaded not guilty to murder charges and is expected to face trial at a later date.
George Wagner IV is charged with eight counts of murder and a multitude of other crimes, including burglary and tampering with evidence. If convicted, he faces the death penalty.
By Tuesday, jury selection for the murder trial was complete, resulting in nine women and three men being tasked to decide George Wagner IV’s fate, according to the Dayton Daily News. Six alternate jurors have yet to be chosen.
The case is a sprawling one that consists of many people and multiple locations, which is why jurors will spend the next few days visiting several Pike County, Ohio, properties, according to Law & Crime. Each site pertains to the execution-style shootings that were carried out sometime between April 21 and 22 in 2016.
On Tuesday, Judge Randy Deering instructed jurors not to wear open-toed shoes and to dress comfortably for their on-scene visits.
One of the places jurors will visit is 4077 Union Hill Road in Piketon. On the property stood a mobile home where Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40, and his cousin, Gary Rhoden, 38, were shot to death.
Investigators believed Rhoden Sr., whose body was in a later stage of decomposition from the rest, was killed first. He was shot nine times in the back bedroom of the trailer, according to CBS affiliate WUSA, and a defensive bullet wound indicated he was awake when the ambush began, which couldn’t be said for the other victims at neighboring dwellings.
Gary was shot one time in the face and twice in the head, according to WUSA.
Jurors will also visit 3122 Union Hill Road, which, although considered part of neighboring Rarden, Ohio, is only 1.7 miles from the first trailer. According to Law & Crime, Rhoden Sr. purchased the second property in 2016 for his ex-wife, Dana Manley-Rhoden, 37, and the couple’s two children, Chris Rhoden Jr., 16, and Hanna Rhoden, 19, all three of whom were killed in the ambush.
A postmortem report revealed Dana was shot four times on the side of the head and one time under the chin, according to WUSA. Chris was also shot multiple times in the head, as was Hanna, whose 5-day-old infant was beside her during the murder.
The infant was physically unharmed.
Frankie Rhoden, 20, the son of Christopher Rhoden Sr. and Dana Manley-Rhoden, lived between the two trailers at 4091 Union Hill Road, according to WUSA. Frankie and his fiancée, Hannah Gilley, also 20, were both shot to death in their bed.
Their 6-month-old child was with them in bed but was physically unharmed. Frankie’s 4-year-old son from a previous relationship was asleep on the couch when the shooting occurred and was also physically unharmed, according to WUSA.
The last believed to die was Christopher Rhoden Sr.’s older brother, Kenneth Rhoden, 44, who lived in a Rarden camper several miles away from the rest of the Rhodens. According to Law & Crime, Kenneth lived without running water and regularly visited his brother's home to use his shower before work.
He was fatally shot once through the eye, according to the CBS affiliate.
The Rhodens’ mobile homes, along with Kenneth’s camper, remain at a warehouse, where investigators have kept the residences to help preserve evidence, according to Law & Crime. Jurors will also visit the warehouse to inspect the dwellings.
Also stored at the warehouse is a vehicle the Wagners allegedly used to carry out the murders.
Ahead of opening arguments in the trial of George Wagner IV, jurors will also visit several properties belonging to the Wagner family in Peebles, Ohio, some 20 miles away. One of the homes belonged to brothers George IV and Jake on 260 Peterson Road.
It was here, prosecutors say, that they found evidence pertaining to the murders, including a burned video recorder (purportedly from the Wagners’ security system) and one of the murder weapons.
Jurors will also visit the Flying W Farm in Camp Creek Township, where George III temporarily lived with his elderly parents. Several searches in 2017 took place on this property.
Also in Camp Creek Township is a property where all four Wagners lived before the Wagner sons moved into the Peterson Road home, along with George IV’s then-wife and their young child.
Other areas included a State Route 41 property, where investigators also searched for evidence after it was found some of the Wagners stored property at the address. Another site will be a Webster, Ohio, home owned by Angela Wagner’s late father.
Prosecutors say the Wagners killed the Rhodens and Gilley over an ongoing dispute between Jake Wagner and Hanna Rhoden, who shared a 3-year-old child named Sophia.
Sophia was with the Wagners on the night of the murders and was not injured.
Though eyed as suspects early in the case, the Wagners moved to rural Alaska before moving back with Sophia to Ohio in 2018, months before the four suspects were arrested for the murders. Prosecutors say investigators found evidence that the Wagners forged documents to ensure they kept custody of Sophia.
George Wagner IV, in his defense, maintains he never pulled the trigger. His brother Jake, who agreed to serve eight life sentences as part of his plea deal, is expected to testify in the upcoming trial.
Opening statements are scheduled to begin after Labor Day weekend.
The case was covered by Oxygen’s original series, “The Piketon Family Murders.”