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Who Are the Families Involved in the Pike County Murders in Ohio?
With eight members of one family shot dead and another family later arrested, the sprawling interpersonal ties of the Rhoden and Wagner families boosted interest in the case.
It’s the largest homicide investigation the state of Ohio has ever seen: In 2016, eight people were brutally murdered in Pike County. All but one of the victims, a fiancée, belonged to the Rhoden family. Three children in the family, including a newborn baby who was just days old, survived the shootings unscathed. Most of the victims were asleep during the vicious attack.
Mike DeWine, the Ohio Attorney General at the time, said at a news conference that the slayings were “a sophisticated operation,” while Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader said it was methodical and well-planned.
It would take years for arrests to be made, and when they came, they revealed a complex web of family and romantic relationships. DeWine would later announce that law enforcement suspected one possible motive for the slayings was a custody battle between Hanna Rhoden and ex-boyfriend Jack Wagner, who was eventually arrested for the crime along with several other members of his family in 2018.
Here’s a breakdown of the different families entangled in the massacre, which is being explored in Oxygen’s three-part documentary series, The Pike County Murders: A Family Massacre, premiering November 24 at 8/7c p.m. with two episodes, and continuing with a third episode on November 25 at 9/8c p.m.
The patriarch of the Rhoden family was 40-year-old Christopher Rhoden Sr. Autopsy reports revealed he was shot nine times, and was awake at the time of the killing.
His 38-year-old cousin, Gary Rhoden, was found dead with him in the trailer. The bodies of Christopher Sr.’s ex-wife, 37-year-old Dana Manley Rhoden, and two of the couple’s children, 16-year-old Christopher Jr. and 19-year-old Hanna, were also found on the property in a different trailer.
What was the relationship between Hanna Rhoden and Jake Wagner?
Hanna Rhoden was killed with her newborn daughter who was found unharmed, but still in bed with her, according to NBC News. The custody battle authorities pointed to as a motive dealt with Hanna’s older child, Sophia. Sophia’s father is Rhoden’s ex-boyfriend Jake Wagner, and the child was in his custody the night Hanna was murdered.
Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden was found dead alongside Hannah Gilley (his fiancée who shared a similar first name to his sister Hanna). Both were 20 years old. The couple had a 6-month-old baby boy who was found alive between his parents. Frankie also had a 3-year-old son who was present and also spared from the killings.
Christopher Sr.’s 44-year-old brother, Kenneth Rhoden, was found shot and killed three miles away.
In 2018, four members of another family, the Wagners, were arrested for the slayings: Jake Wagner, the father of Hanna’s daughter, his brother George Wagner IV, and his parents, George “Billy” Wagner III and Angela Wagner. There was another connection between the two families: Billy was longtime friends and business partners with Christopher Sr., according to WKYC.
Sophia isn’t the only child connecting multiple families affected by the murders. Charlie Gilley lost both his sister Hannah Gilley and his former girlfriend Hanna Rhoden in the killings. He had hired an attorney and took a paternity test to see if he was the father of Hanna’s newborn daughter, Kylie, who survived the killings, according to an interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer. Hanna’s ex-boyfriend Jake Wagner, father of her daughter Sophia, also spoke to the outlet and claimed there was a 50/50 chance he was the father of Kylie, saying he was also awaiting the results of a paternity test. Tests confirmed Gilley is Kylie’s father. A gag order was issued on two of the custody cases, which prevents family members from further discussing the children with the media.
As of November 2023, Billy is the only member of the Wagner family still facing trial. After several delays, his trial is now set for May 6, 2024. Billy is facing 22 charges, including eight counts of aggravated murder in connection with the Rhoden family slayings. He's pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Billy's wife Angela and their son Jake had initially pleaded not guilty in the case, then took plea deals in exchange for avoiding the death penalty. Jake was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for his role in the murders.
Angela was sentenced to 30 years in prison without the possibility of parole after pleading guilty to conspiracy, aggravated burglary, tampering with evidence, forgery, unauthorized use of property and unlawful possession of a dangerous ordinance.
George went to trial and was given eight consecutive life sentences, plus 121 years, after being found guilty on 22 charges, including eight counts of aggravated murder, as well as charges including tampering with evidence, conspiracy and forgery.
Who are the Manleys and what is their connection to the Pike County murders?
The Manleys are a family related to the Rhodens, by way of matriarch Dana Manley Rhoden, who believe they faced unfair scrutiny after the murders.
Bobby Jo Manley, Dana’s sister, was the one who called 911 after finding the bodies of four of the eight victims. She publicly voiced her belief she was being viewed as a suspect and denied any involvement, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
Meanwhile, James Manley, who was the one to find his sister Dana’s body, was eventually charged with tampering with evidence and vandalism after he allegedly destroyed a GPS tracker he found placed on his truck. Those charges were later dropped. Authorities have never called him a suspect in the case.
Dana’s father, Leonard Manley, would criticize the intense attention their family faced from law enforcement, insisting no one from the Manley family was involved with the murders, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Former Attorney General Mike DeWine said at a press conference that there was no evidence that anyone other the Wagners were involved with the murders.
Watch The Pike County Murders: A Family Massacre, premiering November 24 at 8/7c p.m. on Oxygen.
Originally published Mar 26, 2019.