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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 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 law enforcement suspect the motive for the slayings partially arose from 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 with the Pike County Murder Case.
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 the couple’s two children, 16-year-old Christopher Jr. and 19-year-old Hanna, were also found on the property in a different trailer.
Hanna Rhoden was killed with her newborn daughter found not harmed, but still in bed with her, according to NBC News. The custody battle authorities are pointing toward as a possible motive dealt with Hanna’s older child, Sophia. Sophia’s father is Rhoden’s ex-boyfriend Jake Wagner, and she 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 and Angela Wagner. There was another connection between the two families: Billy was longtime friends and business partners with Christopher Sr., according to WKYC.
The Wagners have pleaded not guilty to all charges against them, including aggravated murder. If convicted, they could face the death penalty.
The grandmothers and matriarchs of the Wagner family, Rita Newcomb and Fredericka Wagner, were also charged with allegedly helping cover up the crimes. They’ve both pleaded not guilty. Attorneys for Fredericka Wagner filed a motion to have obstruction of justice and perjury charges she faces dismissed, arguing she only mistakenly said the wrong online retailer she purchased two bullet proof vests from to the grand jury. The defense filing argues she bought the vests after the murders as the sheriff's department suggested the community arm themselves.
“We were terrified; everybody was,” Fredericka Wagner said in an interview with Ohio news outlet the Plain Dealer. “When I first heard about [the murders] that morning, I thought it was ISIS, or terrorists. I thought it was a terrorist attack.”
Sophia isn’t the only child who connects the three families in some way. Charlie Gilley lost both his sister Hannah Gilley and his former girlfriend Hanna Rhoden in the killings. He had hired an attorney and was awaiting a paternity test to see if he was the father of Hannah’s newborn daughter, Kylie, who survived the killings, according to an interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer. Hanna’s ex-boyfriend Jake Wagner, father of daughter Sophia, also spoke to the outlet and claimed there’s a 50/50 chance he was the father of Kylie, insisting he is also awaiting 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.
The Manleys are a family related to the Rhodens who believe they’ve 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, reports the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Meanwhile brother James Manley, who was the one to find 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 there is no evidence anyone other the Wagners were involved with the murders.
Watch "The Piketon Family Murders" Sunday, March 31 at 7/6c, only on Oxygen.
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