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How the Wagner Family, Accused in the Pike County Murders, Became the “Rich People of the Town"

A former in-law of the Wagners, the family accused of killing the Rhodens, says that Jake and George Wagner's grandmother "would spoil them all the time."

By Gina Salamone

After eight members of the same extended family were found brutally murdered in Pike County, Ohio on April 22, 2016, it would take more than two-and-a-half years for arrests to be made in the killings.

How to Watch

Watch The Pike Family Murders: A Family Massacre on Oxygen and Peacock. Catch up on the Oxygen app.

Multiple members of the Wagner family — a wealthy, allegedly power- and control-obsessed clan — were eventually charged with the crimes in November of 2018. The case is explored in Oxygen’s three-part documentary series, The Pike County Murders: A Family Massacre, premiering November 24 at 8/7c p.m.

Those slain — all shot execution-style across four homes — include Hanna May Rhoden, 19; her parents Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40, and Dana Manley-Rhoden, 37; her brothers Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16, and Frankie Rhoden, 20; Frankie's fiancée, Hannah Gilley, 20; Christopher Sr.'s brother Kenneth Rhoden, 44; and a cousin, Gary Rhoden, 38. 

RELATED: How to Watch The Pike County Murders: A Family Massacre

The father of Hanna's oldest child, Sophia, is Jake Wagner, who was arrested in connection to the murders, along with his brother George Wagner, and parents, Angela Wagner and her husband George "Billy" Wagner III.

“The Wagners were the rich people of the town," Christina Howard, George’s ex-sister-in-law, told The Pike County Murders, as seen in a preview clip aired at CrimeCon at Home: Holiday Escape. "I used to hang out with Jake and George. Their grandmother, [Fredericka], would spoil them all the time.”

The Wagner family poses together in The Pike County Murders Season 1 Episode 1.

As for a motive? Control, according to prosecutors who have painted Angela as obsessive when it came to her two sons, their love interests, and her grandchildren. They have argued that custody and control over Sophia was what drove Angela and the rest of the Wagners to concoct a murder plan against the Rhodens.

"There was an obsession with control of the children," then-Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said at a press conference at the time of the arrests, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

RELATED: The Pike County Massacre: What’s Going on with George "Billy" Wagner’s Murder Trial?

At one point during court proceedings against the Wagners in 2022, prosecutors called to the stand Tabitha Claytor, George's ex-wife. Claytor testified that while living with the Wagners, her son with George mostly slept with Angela and Billy, rather than with her, where she preferred him to be, according to WLWT5. Claytor said that the sleeping arrangement involving her child was not her choice.

She also testified that, "Towards the end the night, she (Angela) would usually have me leave so she could sit there and scratch his (George's) back and talk about the day."

The control over her family and of others that Angela allegedly exerted wasn't the Wagners' only means of power. They were also wealthy, thanks to Jake and George's grandmother, Fredericka.

Who is Fredericka Wagner?

Fredericka Wagner is the mother of Billy, and the mother-in-law of Angela. “Billy worked for his mother and Billy was also a trucker," Howard said. "Angela did work with [Fredericka] to help with her horses and dogs.” Angenette Levy, a journalist with Law&Crime Network, told The Pike County Murders: "Fredericka and her husband Bob bought the Flying W Farms, it’s this sprawling 1,700-acre property. They had a successful horse breeding business and Fredericka owned rental properties around the area."

Fredericka initially faced criminal charges of obstructing justice and perjury in the Rhoden case, after prosecutors accused her of lying on the stand about where she bought bulletproof vests, but those charges were later dropped in June of 2019, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

The Wagner family poses in The Pike County Murders Season 1 Episode 1

How much is the Wagner family worth? 

Billy's mother Fredericka owns more than 1,700 acres in Pike County, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer, citing 2018 Pike County Auditor records that placed the value of the land and buildings on it at more than $4 million. "In Pike County, Ohio, that’s an astronomical amount of money," Levy told The Pike County Murders.

RELATED: Documentary Series The Pike County Murders: A Family Massacre Examines the Depravity That Shook Ohio to Its Core 

As for the status of the criminal proceedings against the rest of the Wagners, Jake and Angela both eventually took plea deals for their roles in exchange for avoiding the death penalty. Jake was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in the Rhoden family killings. Angela — who pleaded guilty to conspiracy, aggravated burglary, tampering with evidence, forgery, unauthorized use of property and unlawful possession of a dangerous ordinance — was handed 30 years in prison without the possibility of parole.

George was given eight consecutive life sentences, plus 121 years, after being found guilty of all 22 charges against him, including eight counts of aggravated murder. And Billy is set to go to trial in May of 2024.

The Pike County Murders: A Family Massacre premieres Friday, November 24 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Oxygen with back-to-back episodes, and continues Saturday, November 25 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. All three episodes will be available to stream on Peacock beginning November 28.

CrimeCon at Home Holiday Escape is produced by Red Seat Ventures and presented by Oxygen True Crime.

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