2nd man pleads not guilty in Rhoden family slayings

George Wagner IV (WBNS-10TV)

George Wagner IV faced a Pike County judge Wednesday morning and pleaded not guilty to a 23 count indictment that includes aggravated murder charges with death penalty specifications.

Prosecutors said Wagner broke into four separate homes in April of 2016 and played a role in the murders of eight members of the Rhoden family. Coroner's reports indicate many of the victims were shot at point-blank range in their beds.

Surviving members of the Rhoden family have filled the courtroom for each hearing since a grand jury indicted George Wagner IV, Edward "Jake" Wagner, and their parents, Angela and Georg "Billy" Wagner. The victims' loved ones wear a t-shirt to court bearing angel wings and the caption, "Justice For The Rhodens."

The court has granted a gag order prohibiting prosecutors, defense attorneys, and investigators from talking to the media about the case. Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader was in the courtroom watching Wagner answer to the charges, after years of promising justice for the victims.

In April of 2017, one year after the massacre, Sheriff Reader had a message for the killers.

"We are getting closer. We will find you. We are coming," said Reader. "Someday they'll get tired of looking over their shoulder. And as we get closer, there will be a day when they look and it's gonna be us."

Exactly one year and seven months to the day Sheriff Reader spoke those words, only 10TV was there as Pike County Investigators, the Ohio Attorney General's BCI Agents, and the Franklin County Sheriff's SWAT team raided the Wagner family farm.

Investigators have said a custody dispute over a child shared by Jake Wagner and 19-year-old murder victim, Hannah Rhoden is at the center of the motive for the murders. Tuesday, the court ordered Jake Wagner held without bond.

On Wednesday, the court also ordered George Wagner held without bond after Ohio Attorney General special prosecutor Angela Canepa told the court Wagner was "the most vocal"in the family's plot to seek revenge against anyone who went against them, including Sheriff Reader, if any of the Wagners got arrested.

Angela Wagner will answer to the same charges Thursday at 1:30. Her husband, "Billy" Wagner, is scheduled for court on the following Tuesday.

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