Ohio Man Pleads Responsible in 2016 Killings of eight in Similar Household

0
125

An Ohio man pleaded guilty Thursday to eight serious homicides in the fatal shooting of the mother of his child and seven of her family members in 2016, in a bitter custody battle.

Edward Wagner, 28, apologized for his role in the murder of eight members of the Rhoden family five years after the date their bodies were left in multiple mobile homes and a motor home in a sparsely populated area of ​​Pike County, Pike state were found in the southern part of the state. Every victim had been shot in the head.

In a plea obtained in Pike County, prosecutors agreed not to pursue Mr. Wagner’s death penalty. They recommended serving eight life sentences without parole. He had previously pleaded not guilty.

In turn, Mr. Wagner, known as Jake, agreed to testify against his parents and an adult brother in a murder case that took more than two years to investigate before arrests were made. According to the public prosecutor, Mr. Wagner confessed to personally causing the deaths of five of the eight victims.

“I’m very sorry,” said Mr. Wagner, who will be convicted at a later date.

The prosecutor said that Mr. Wagner was involved in a bitter dispute with Hanna May Rhoden over custody of her then two-year-old daughter Sophia when he and his family members were planning the murders.

At the time of the murders, Ms. Rhoden, 19, had started seeing someone else and was pregnant with that person’s child, according to prosecutors. Mr Wagner had forged court documents claiming he would obtain custody of Sophia in the EU on the event of Mrs Rhoden’s death.

“Jake was increasingly angry with Hanna for exposing Sophia to people he believed shouldn’t be around,” said Angie Canepa, a special prosecutor in the case, on Thursday.

Ms. Canepa said Ms. Rhoden told a friend in a Facebook message in December 2015 that she would never sign papers in which she shares custody of Sophia with Mr. Wagner.

“‘You have to kill me first,'” Ms. Canepa said in the message that was part of hacked material found in the possession of Mr. Wagner’s family.

In addition to Ms. Rhoden, her parents, Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40, and his ex-wife, Dana Manley Rhoden, 37, were killed. So does her siblings Christopher Rhoden Jr. (16) and Clarence (Frankie) Rhoden (20). Other victims included Frankie Rhoden’s fiancée Hannah (Hazel) Gilley, 20; Christopher Rhoden’s brother, Kenneth Rhoden, 44; and his cousin Gary Rhoden, 38.

Brian K. Duncan, a Rhodens attorney, said in an email Thursday that the family was overwhelmed with emotion over Mr. Wagner’s admission of guilt.

“Mr. Wagner’s plea offers at least a semblance of immediate justice and a glimmer of hope that all responsible parties may ultimately be held accountable for their respective actions in the near future,” said Duncan.

The cases of Mr. Wagner’s parents, George (Billy) Wagner III and Angela Wagner, and his brother, George Wagner IV, all of whom pleaded not guilty, continue.

Prosecutors said Mr. Wagner spent several months planning the murders and buying materials to make gun silencers and a cell phone jammer.

According to authorities, cartridge cases were found in the Wagner house that match some of those used in the murders, and the treads of bloody footprints found at the crime scene matched those of several pairs of shoes the Wagners had recently purchased.

The case appeared to be drugs when the sheriff’s MPs found three marijuana growers on the premises of at least one of the homes where the victims’ bodies were discovered.

In addition to the eight cases of grave murder, Mr. Wagner pleaded guilty to 15 other cases, which included conspiracy, grave burglary and manipulation of evidence.

“I am guilty, your honor,” he repeated when asked if he would like to change his previous not guilty complaints.

Greg Meyers, a public defense attorney for Mr. Wagner, said his client closed the plea agreement with his eyes open.

“He knows that without a judicial release he will die in prison,” said Meyers.