Pike County Massacre: George Wagner IV sentenced to life in prison

Ohio Family Killed
These undated images released by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office show from the left, George “Billy” Wagner III, Angela Wagner, George Wagner IV, and Edward “Jake” Wagner. Authorities announced Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018, that the family of four had been arrested in the slayings of eight members of one family in rural Ohio two years ago. (Ohio Attorney General’s office via AP)

Pike County Massacre: George Wagner IV sentenced to life in prison

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A man was sentenced on Monday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for his role in the murders of eight Ohio family members in a horrifying incident known as the Pike County Massacre.

George Wagner IV, 31, was sentenced for all eight counts of aggravated murder, as well as counts of conspiracy, burglary, and tampering with evidence, bringing an end to the nearly three-month trial.

OHIO MAN FOUND GUILTY IN MURDERS OF EIGHT RHODEN FAMILY MEMBERS

On Dec. 1, Wagner IV was found guilty in the 2016 shooting of eight members of the Rhoden family. Despite not physically shooting the Rhoden family, Wagner IV knew about the murder plot and participated by helping his brother, Jake Wagner and father, George Wagner III, move the bodies after the pair shot them.

Jake Wagner pleaded guilty to aggravated murder, among other charges, in 2021. He and his mother, Angela Wagner, who pleaded guilty to the same charges, agreed to testify against Wagner IV and Wagner III in a plea deal to help them avoid the death penalty. Wagner III pleaded not guilty and still awaits trial.

The Wagners and Rhodens were linked by a daughter shared by Hanna Rhoden and Jake Wagner, and a custody dispute spurred the murder plot, according to prosecutors.

“No sentence would right the wrong that has been inflicted on the victims and their families,” Judge Deering said before delivering the sentence, per WLWT.

Reports from within the courtroom said Wagner IV was stoic when his sentence was delivered, and he did not give a statement. Prosecutor Angela Canepa said during the hearing that Wagner IV “did not deserve mercy.”

A victim advocate read, “To you, Hannah was just collateral damage in your sick and twisted plan,” in a letter from victim Hannah Gilley’s aunt. Hannah’s mother spoke during the hearing, sharing that she missed her daughter “beyond words.”

“I pray for you not to live. I want you to die. Just like you and your evil family did my baby girl,” Shoemaker said to Wagner IV.

The daughter of victim Kenneth Rhoden said that while eight lives were taken, “many more lives were stolen,” ending her statement with, “I hope you burn in hell, George.”

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) issued a statement following the hearing, praising the resilience of the family.

“George Wagner IV will never live another day outside of prison — a sentence that’s another step toward justice for the Rhodens, Gilleys, & Manleys,” he wrote. “I spoke with family members this morning, commending them for their courage & their patience as they waited 6+ years for this day.”

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The Rhoden family murders mark one of the state’s most extensive criminal investigations and one of the longest trials in Ohio history, according to DeWine.

The victims were Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40; ex-wife Dana Rhoden, 37; their children, Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 20; Hanna Rhoden, 19; and Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16; Clarence Rhoden’s fiancee, Hannah Gilley, 20; Christopher Rhoden Sr.’s brother, Kenneth Rhoden, 44; and a cousin, Gary Rhoden, 38.

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