PIKE COUNTY, Ohio — For the first time in more than six years, George Wagner IV is sharing his account of what happened in the time before and after the deaths of eight members of the Rhoden family in 2016.
Jurors heard Wednesday about the relationships and in-fighting George Wagner IV had with his family and his account of what happened in the days and months after the murders.
When he learned of the deaths of the Rhoden family members, he said it was “more heartbreaking and emotional than anything in my life.”
Wagner took the stand in his own defense Wednesday and opted to have his testimony recorded.
Special Prosecutor, Angela Canepa, said the Rhoden and Wagner families were close for years and the Wagners were obsessed with gaining control over the child that Wagner’s younger brother, Jake, had with victim Hanna Rhoden.
George Wagner IV is accused of helping to plan, carry out, and cover up the shooting deaths.
Jake Wagner previously pleaded guilty to killing five of the victims.
"I never would have believed my family would be capable of doing something of this magnitude,” he said.
Wagner said he wasn't like his brother, his mother, or his father. He described his father's conspiracy theories and said his mom and brother were “over-opinionated.”
He also described his gun use and said he would buy or trade new guns weekly.
He explained he was asleep the night of the murders and didn't hear anything and then what it was like going to the funerals. All through that, Wagner said he never heard anything from his family members about the murders and described in detail the decision as a family to go to Alaska after the killings, at first on vacation. Then again, to relocate there. On the return to Ohio from vacation, he said they were interrogated at the border for hours.
Wagner was asked on the stand, “were you told that your family was involved?” He answered, “yes.”
He said he was upset about it and emotionally distraught that investigators would accuse his family.
Authorities said the shootings of seven adults and a teenage boy in April 2016 stemmed from a dispute over Wagner’s niece, Sophia.
Last year Wagner's mom, Angela, pleaded guilty to her role. His father, Billy, pleaded not guilty and his trial is set to begin sometime next year.
Wagner's testimony is expected to continue Thursday.
If convicted, he faces the death penalty.