George Wagner IV’s brother and mother can testify against him in Rhoden murders, judge rules

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George Wagner IV in a 2018 file photo.

The younger brother and mother of George Wagner IV can testify against him at his upcoming aggravated murder trial, a Pike County judge ruled on Tuesday.

George Wagner IV, his parents George “Billy” Wagner III and Angela Wagner, and his brother, Jake Wagner, have been charged in the fatal 2016 shooting of eight Rhoden family members at three residences in Pike County.

Jake Wagner and Angela Wagner both pleaded guilty last year to their respective roles in the execution-style murders in 2016.

In return for his confession and plea, Jake Wagner will spend the rest of his life in prison, and prosecutors have agreed to drop the option of the death penalty for all four Wagners. In exchange for her plea, Angela Wagner will serve 30 years in prison.

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As part of their plea deals, Jake and Angela Wagner both agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in the cases against George Wagner IV and Billy Wagner.

in this file photo, Edward "Jack"  Wagner, center, wipes away tears April 22, 2021 after pleading guilty to eight counts of aggravated murder and other charges in connection with the Rhoden/Gilley family homicides in Pike County on April 22 2016. With him are his attorneys Gregory Meyers, left, and William Mooney, both of the Ohio Public Defender's Office.

In this file photo, Edward “Jake” Wagner, center, wipes away tears on April 22, 2021 after pleading guilty to eight counts of aggravated murder and other counts related to the homicides of the Rhoden/Gilley family in Pike County April 22, 2016 With him are his attorneys Gregory Meyers, left, and William Mooney, both of the Ohio Public Defender’s Office.

Lawyers for George Wagner IV had argued that allowing his younger brother and mother to testify against him would violate his due process rights.

“My client has the right to confront any of the prosecution witnesses at trial and to cross-examine those witnesses,” defense attorney John Parker told the County Court of Common Pleas judge on Tuesday. Pike, Randy Deering.

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“But under the plea deal they made with Jake, he has to follow the script,” Parker said, referring to prosecutors.

Rhoden family homicides: Former prosecutor says length of trial not unusual

Special Prosecutor Andrew Wilson countered by saying the state’s case against George Wagner IV did not hinge on his brother’s testimony.

“It’s because Jake’s proposal, Jake’s cooperation, destroyed their defenses that they were making up,” Wilson said. “It didn’t affect the state’s case. What Jake’s proposal did was affirm what the state already knew through its investigation.”

Angela Wagner, right, listens to her attorney, Mark Hunt, left, Mark Hunt, during a hearing September 10, 2021 at the Pike County Courthouse in Waverly, Ohio, where she pleaded guilty to 14 counts of charge stemming from the 2016 murders of eight members of the Rhoden family.  Wagner, 50, was arrested along with her sons, Edward "Jack"  Wagner and George Wagner IV, and her husband George "Billy"  Wagner III in connection with the murders.  Jake Wagner had previously pleaded guilty for his role in the murders.

Angela Wagner, right, listens to her attorney, Mark Hunt, left, Mark Hunt, during a hearing September 10, 2021 at the Pike County Courthouse in Waverly, Ohio, where she pleaded guilty to 14 counts of charge stemming from the 2016 murders of eight members of the Rhoden family. Wagner, 50, was arrested along with her sons, Edward “Jake” Wagner and George Wagner IV, and husband George “Billy” Wagner III in connection with the murders. Jake Wagner had previously pleaded guilty for his role in the murders.

Pike County Common Pleas Judge Randy Deering ultimately accepted the charge and denied the defense’s motion to restrain testimony.

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Deering last month denied a request to change the venue for the trial of George Wagner IV, scheduled for next month. He also ruled in April that a forensic expert could testify about the shoe print evidence that investigators say they found at the crime scenes.

Wagner family patriarch George “Billy” Wagner III is expected to stand trial for his role in the Rhoden murders no later than October 31.

Investigators say disputes over the custody and control of a toddler by Jake Wagner and Hanna May Rhoden, who attended Piketon High School, went to prom together and had a child together, caused the violence.

Pike County murders: Back to what happened

A look at the Wagner family: They spoke to the Enquirer

Mike Miller, a former City Court judge and prosecutor who is now a defense attorney with the Columbus law firm Kegler Brown Hill & Ritter, has followed the Pike County cases from afar.

“The prosecution now has two witnesses who would be deeply involved in this case, as indicated by their guilty pleas, and would know pretty much firsthand what happened and what didn’t,” Miller said. “I think this is a major step for the prosecution.”

Monroe Trombly covers the latest news and trends.

[email protected]

@MonroeTrombly

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Family members can testify against George Wagner IV, judge says

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