George Washington Wagner IV, one of the perpetrators of eight brutal homicides that shattered a family in southern Ohio, was given an equivalent number of consecutive life terms without the possibility of release on Monday.
The sentence, which included an additional 121 years in prison for lesser counts, was handed down by Pike County Common Pleas Judge Randy Deering as Wagner, 31, stood with his hands in his pants pockets and a bowed head.
Wagner, who testified in his own defense late last month and said he knew nothing about his relatives’ 2016 conspiracy to kill members of the Rhoden family over custody of a shared kid, was informed by Deering that “the court feels no remorse has been exhibited, only denial.”
Due to separate plea deals, they made with prosecutors last year, Edward “Jake” Wagner, Wagner’s brother, and their mother, Angela Wagner, both testified against him during the almost 13-week jury trial.
In nearly seven hours, the jury found him guilty on all 22 counts. George “Billy” Wagner, his father, who is 51 years old, has entered a not-guilty plea to the same allegations and will go on trial sometime in 2019.
The oldest victim was 44, the youngest 16.
George Washington Wagner IV, one of the people at the center of eight coldblooded killings that devastated a southern Ohio family, was sentenced Monday to consecutive life sentences without parole. https://t.co/14ziyiSJYv
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) December 20, 2022
One of the younger Wagner’s attorneys, Richard Nash, stated that his client “maintains his innocence” and will appeal. Jake Wagner stated that although his brother was involved in the plotting, he did not actually kill any of the victims.
Many of the dead, including two young mothers with infants, were shot while they were asleep. Among them were Christopher “Chris” Rhoden Sr., his ex-wife Dana Manley Rhoden, their kids Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, Hanna May Rhoden, and Christopher “Chris” Rhoden Jr., as well as Frankie’s fiancée Hannah Hazel Gilley, Christopher Srbrother .’s Kenneth Rhoden, and a distant relative named Gary Rhoden.
The victim’s ages ranged from 16 to 44.
After becoming persuaded that the toddler-aged daughter Jake Wagner and Hanna Rhoden shared was being molested by Rhoden family members, Jake Wagner’s father devised a plan to murder the Rhoden, Jake Wagner revealed in horrific testimony over the course of four days. Prosecutors said the Wagners sought sole custody of the child and killed to obtain it after learning Hanna Rhoden would never consent to it. That assertion was never supported by any evidence.
10 members of the Rhoden, Manley, and Gilley families submitted victim impact statements before sentencing that were overwhelmingly painful, angry, and filled with grief.
Many people who had been working on the case since the deaths were found, including prosecutors, sheriff’s detectives, and state crime scene investigators, sobbed openly in the courtroom.
Andrea Shoemaker, Gilley’s mother, wrung her hands as she read from her statement and added, “My heart is forever torn.” Wagner was yelled at by the woman, who referred to him as the devil and a monster whose acts had stolen parents from their children as well as uncles, aunts, nieces, and nephews.
She slammed the lectern and exclaimed, “Life in prison is too wonderful for you. What have you achieved after everything that you have done, George Wagner IV?
One of the most moving moments occurred when a letter from Clarence Rhoden’s son, who had been sleeping on his father’s couch the night of the killings, was read aloud.
One of the three little children the murderers spared at the time was Brentley, who was 3 years old. He discovered his father dead in bed, covered in blood.
George here: I’m left wondering why you murdered my father. I’m saddened by certain things since I can’t learn from him. the youngster said in his letter, which his mother, Chelsea Robinson, read out in court, “enjoy working on derby cars and coon hunting.”
“Since that night, I’ve been afraid since I know terrible people broke into my house while I was sleeping. I worry constantly that I will lose my mother.
The boy added, “You did it to me. All I’m saying is that I despise you and your family.