Rhoden Family Massacre: Pets Carried Surveillance Devices

The latest on the arrest of the Wagners in connection with the Rhoden family deaths
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 14, 2018 9:07 AM CST
Mom Charged in Ohio Massacre Called Victim 'Like a Daughter'
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine stands beside a screen bearing the likenesses of arrested parties during a news conference to discuss developments into the slayings of eight members of one family in rural Ohio two years ago, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018, in Waverly, Ohio.   (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

(Newser) – Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine on Tuesday called it "the most bizarre story I've ever seen": the arrests of four members of the Wagner family in the April 2016 execution-style slayings of eight members of the Rhoden family in Ohio. Authorities allege a custody dispute was at the root of the crime; Edward "Jake" Wagner, now 26, shared custody of daughter Sophia, now 5, with victim Hanna Rhoden. The latest in the case:

  • Wagner's mom, Angela Wagner, is one of the four to be arrested on capital murder charges, and NBC News resurrects her old words: She previously described Hanna as "like a daughter," said her husband George "Billy" Wagner's "best friend" was Hanna's father (victim Christopher Rhoden Sr.), and characterized the perpetrators as "monsters."

  • The Wagners allegedly spent months studying the Rhodens' routines and the layouts of their homes, with DeWine's office saying they took note of where they slept and that "countersurveillance devices [were] present on their properties, including pets."
  • The Washington Post reports DeWine alleges the family took steps to cover up their crime by tampering with phones, shell casings, and surveillance cameras.
  • The Cincinnati Enquirer spoke with locals in the wake of the arrests, and found some "incredulous" that the Wagners, who were perceived as being wealthy (Billy Wagner's father reportedly used to show horses around the globe), "would risk forfeiting their land and money by committing such heinous crimes."
  • As for the custody angle, NBC News reports Sophia was with Jake Wagner when the murders happened and was supposed to go back to her mom the next day. A July 2016 Enquirer article reported that Sophia was actually supposed to be with her mom that night, but Jake collected her a day earlier. "I reckon we missed it by just hours," he told the paper.
  • As for what comes next, "justice is slow," writes the Chillicothe Gazette, which reports the prosecution will take years. It details how expensive the case could be for taxpayers, particularly because the death penalty is on the table. DeWine acknowledged that "Pike County is a small county and we clearly have to do something in Ohio to make sure these counties have the ability to carry out justice. I'll let it go at that."
(Read much more on the murders here.)

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