WAVERLY, Ohio (WCMH) — The brother of accused murderer George Wagner IV — currently on trial for the murder of eight members of the Rhoden family in 2016 — continued his testimony against his brother on Tuesday in Pike County.
In court, Jake Wagner testified how his brother George, their father Billy, and he all began working immediately to shield themselves from being discovered, beginning the night of the murders. He said they drove back to their family barn and began burning their clothes to get rid of any evidence.
He said he took each of their guns and began cutting them in half with power tools — saying in court that they even went so far as to try burning them with a torch. When that was unsuccessful, he settled for burning off the serial numbers instead.
He then admitted to burying pieces of the guns in the barn, underneath a support beam, which he dug up with George Wagner IV’s assistance.
Jake Wagner pled guilty to the murders in April 2021, after previously pleading not guilty. Along with Jake Wagner, those facing charges are, with their ages at the time: Angela Wagner, 48; George “Billy” Wagner III, 47; and George Wagner IV, 27.
Eight members of the Rhoden family were found dead in Pike County in April 2016. Prosecutors argued the murders stemmed from a custody argument over the daughter of Jake Wagner and Hanna May Rhoden, one of the victims.
The other victims were Christopher Rhoden Sr., Dana Rhoden, Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, Christopher Rhoden Jr., Hannah Gilley, Gary Rhoden, and Kenneth Rhoden.
Once news of the Rhoden’s deaths began to circulate, Jake Wagner testified Tuesday he refused to talk about it with his family while in private, and tried to forget about it out of guilt.
A few months after the murders, Bureau of Criminal Investigation authorities came to investigate the Wagner’s residence. Jake Wagner said they fully cooperated with BCI’s questioning, but afterwards, said his family became worried they had been placed under surveillance.
He also said his father Billy became concerned the guns would be found, and had him dig up the weapons and place them into concrete buckets. Afterwards, Jake Wagner testified they took concrete weights and placed them onto a geese house on their grandparent’s lake property.
The state also showed images of that evidence being collected several years later in court.
Jake Wagner’s testimony was not filmed or recorded on Tuesday, similar to Monday, per a judge’s order that witnesses may opt out of having their face shown or voice recorded.
A motion was filed by members of the media to appeal that decision made by the Pike County court, and a hearing is scheduled Wednesday morning at 8:30 a.m. to determine whether it will stand or be denied.