The first of four family members charged with killing eight people from another Ohio family has pleaded not guilty to aggravated murder and other charges in what could end up being a death penalty case.
Edward ‘Jake’ Wagner, 26, on Tuesday was led in handcuffs and shackles into Pike County Common Pleas Court, where over the course of an hour he acknowledged each of the 23 counts against him but said little else. He is being held without bond.
The arraignment was attended by nearly two dozen relatives of the deceased, some of whom comforted one another during the proceedings, while others sat quietly.
Edward ‘Jake’ Wagner is escorted by police into the holding area in the Pike County Common Pleas Court in Waverly, Ohio, for his arraignment Tuesday
The 23-year-old is the first of four family members charged with the 2016 shootings of seven adults and a teenager from the Rhoden family
Wagner acknowledged the 23 counts against him but said little else during Tuesday’s arraignment
Authorities suspect a custody dispute between Jake Wagner and his ex-girlfriend was a possible motive
Wagner, his parents, 47-year-old Bill Wagner and 48-year-old Angela Wagner, and his brother, 27-year-old George Wagner IV, are charged in the 2016 shootings of seven adults and a teenager from the Rhoden family.
An attorney who’s represented the Wagners has said they’ll be vindicated.
Authorities say a legal dispute between Jake Wagner and his ex-girlfriend, 19-year-old Hannah Rhoden, over the custody of their two-year-old daughter was a possible motive.
On Tuesday, Judge Randy Deering imposed a gag order at the request of the defense and the prosecution, prohibiting anyone involved from publicly discussing Wagner’s case.
George Wagner’s arraignment is scheduled to take place Wednesday, followed by his mother’s on Thursday and his father’s on December 4, reported Cincinnati.com.
These images released by the Ohio Attorney General’s office, show, top row from left, George ‘Billy’ Wagner III and Angela Wagner, and bottom row from left, George Wagner IV and Edward ‘Jake’ Wagner
The victims in the April 2016 execution-style killings that rocked the village of Piketon were Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40; his ex-wife Dana Rhoden, 37; their three children, Clarence ‘Frankie’ Rhoden, 20; Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16; and Hanna Rhoden, 19; Frankie Rhoden’s fiancee, Hannah Gilley, 20; an uncle, Kenneth Rhoden, 44; and a cousin, Gary Rhoden, 38.
Hannah Rhoden, the 19-year-old mother of Jake Wagner’s toddler daughter, was shot multiple times while sleeping with her newborn baby
Three children were found unharmed at four different homes were the murders took place. Jake Wagner and Hannah Rhoden’s daughter, Sophia, was not with her mother that night.
Autopsy reports suggested the murders were calculated and brutal with the coroner saying all but one of the victims was shot more than once.
Christopher Rhoden Sr. is the only victim who was believed to have been awake when they were shot.
The father-of-three sustained nine gunshot wounds in his forearm, torso and cheek.
Sharing a trailer with Christopher Sr. was his brother Gary, who was shot twice in the head and a third time in the face. His autopsy report says a ‘muzzle stain’ was left on his head, suggesting at one point a shot was fired while the gun was pressed against him.
Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40, his ex-wife Dana Rhoden, 37 (left), and their 16-year-old son, Christopher Jr (right), were among those killed in April 2016 in Piketon in southern Ohio
Clarence ‘Frankie’ Rhoden, 20, and his fiancee, Hannah Gilley, 20, were shot dead while sleeping with their child
Christopher Rhoden Sr.’s brother Kenneth Rhoden, 44, (left) and a cousin, Gary Rhoden (right), 38, were also shot dead.
Dana Rhoden was carefully shot four times around her head and a fifth time from under her chin.
She was sharing a trailer with Christopher Jr. and Hanna who were both shot in the head multiple times. Hanna was in bed with her five-day-old child at the time.
Frankie Rhoden and Hannah Gilley were also shot in the head, but their six-month-old child, who was sleeping between the couple, was spared. Hannah was shot five times in total, with one shot hitting her left eye.
Kenneth Rhoden was shot only once, with the bullet entering his right eye.
Leonard Manley, father of Dana Rhoden Manley, wears a ‘Justice for Gilley and the Rhodens’ in court Tuesday (left). Another relative Geneva Rhoden is comforted by a loved one (right)
The Wagners, who lived nearby in Peebles, moved to Alaska after being questioned over the killings multiple times.They took Jake’s daughter’s with them.
The entire family were arrested two weeks ago following a massive and prolonged investigation by more than 20 law enforcement agencies.
Jake Wagner is due back in court on December 20 and then again in early January 2019.