With eight people murdered, four children left behind, and other family members still picking up the pieces, the Piketon Family Murders left an indelible mark on the small Ohio village.
One horrifying spring night, a chunk of the Rhoden family was decimated, many of them brutally murdered while asleep. Since then, multiple members of another family, the Wagners, with different interpersonal ties to the victims have been arrested for the shocking crime. It’s a story several years in the making with many players. Here are four things to know about the Pike County Family Murders.
It’s referred to as the largest homicide investigation in the state of Ohio’s history.
In April 2016, seven members of the Rhoden family and one fiancée were killed execution-style in Piketon, Ohio, reports USA Today. The victims include Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40, his ex-wife, Dana Manley Rhoden, 38, and their three children, Clarence "Frankie" Rhoden, 20; Hanna Rhoden, 19, and Chris Rhoden, Jr., 16, as well as Christopher Sr.'s older brother Kenneth Rhoden, 44, a cousin Gary Rhoden, 38, and Frankie Rhoden's fiancée, Hannah Gilley, 20.
Investigators described the murders as a calculated and coordinated attack.
Six members of another family, the Wagners, have been arrested and charged in connection to the Rhodens’ deaths.
Indictment documents allege some members of the Wagner family either conspired to or purchased items, including ammunition, a “bug” detector, and/or parts to build a silencer to prepare for the crimes. Each member of the family has pleaded not guilty to all of their respective charges, including the four facing aggravated murder charges, reports local news station WCPO.
In November 2018, a defense attorney for the Wagners said in a statement, “Given the fact that the Wagner’s have been indicted with capital murder with death penalty specifications, we respectfully decline making any statements at this time. However, the Wagner’s eagerly look forward to their trial and to have their day in Court so they can vindicate their names. The Wagner’s are also ever hopeful that in the ensuing months there will be a thorough vetting of all the facts. Moreover, we look forward to the day when the true culprit(s) will be discovered and brought to justice for this terrible tragedy,” according to a local ABC station.
Prior to the charges, the Wagners briefly moved to Alaska.
Many Piketon residents assumed the family was trying to run from authorities, according to a report in the Cincinnati Enquirer. Jake Wagner, who shared a daughter named Sophia with victim Hanna Rhoden, however, said it was to give his daughter a fresh start.
“[T]he point was to get into a better environment so they wouldn’t talk about us. Sophia is getting older, so she wouldn’t hear it,” Wagner told the Enquirer.
The Wagners moved back to Ohio in the spring of 2018, according to local Alaska outlet Anchorage Daily News.
The trial could take years and have a high price tag.
Hiring public defenders and investigators or experts for the accused could alone cost tens of thousands of dollars, USA Today reports.
“The capital case involving the 2016 murders of eight Pike County family members illustrates the financial strain that a community can face from cases involving multiple victims and defendants,” Attorney General Dave Yost said in a news release.
His office gave an initial funding of 100 thousand dollars to go towards costs associated with the case.
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