One of the suspects in the Rhoden family murder case out of Pike County was back in court Thursday.
A pretrial conference was held for Edward “Jake” Wagner at the Pike County courthouse.
Attorneys met behind closed doors for nearly an hour before taking their places in the courtroom and Wagner was brought in.
In court, attorneys for the state and Wagner discussed five things with the judge.
The five issues were mostly procedural in scope, dealing with extending deadlines for filing motions, and whether Wagner would be allowed to wear civilian clothing in court as well as be unrestrained.
The judge ruled that Wagner could wear civilian clothing, but held off on ruling on the removal of his handcuffs until the sheriff’s office looks into alternative restraint methods.
Wagner was dressed in a pair of jeans and a black button-up shirt for the hearing.
A number of matters discussed involved normal procedural issues surrounding any trial, such as discovery requirements and extending deadlines to file motions in relation to that discovery.
During the hearing, Wagner listened intently to the proceedings and answered the judge’s questions.
On three occasions during the short hearing, Wagner’s stone-faced expression broke into a smile or smirk; twice when he was answering the judge and once when he listened to an exchange between the prosecution and the judge.
“Mr. Wagner, we usually like to ask have you had an opportunity that you feel is sufficient opportunity as you go along to discuss your case with your attorneys here?” asked the judge.
“Yes, your honor,” said Wagner.
“And are you satisfied with the effort that they’re making on your behalf and the work that they’re doing on your behalf?” again questioned the judge.
“Yes, your honor,” repeated Wagner with a smile on his face.
The judge went on to inquire about his time in jail, wanting to make sure there was no trouble.
“Is there any problems that you are…” the judge began
“No your honor, none that I can think of,” finished Wagner, again with a smile.
When one of the prosecuting attorneys brought up a desire to make sure it was on the record that Wagner was allowed to wear civilian clothes in court for this hearing, and the judge mentioned that it was his intent to mention that on the record, Wagner who was not being directly addressed at the time again smiled.
Another topic discussed was a desire by the defense team to restrict who was allowed to talk to Wagner in jail.
There is already a gag order in place for the family and attorneys; this would be a restriction on communications with people Wagner may be exposed to behind bars as he waits for his trial to proceed.
This is one way to limit other inmates attempting to get information through talking to Wagner in jail.
Finally, as the hearing came to an abrupt close, Wagner’s normal blank expression changed one last time.
As the judge swiftly concluded things with nothing else to discuss at this time, he adjourned the hearing and Wagner’s expression shifted to what could be described as a surprised frown.
Relatives of both the Rhoden and Wagner families were present today for the pretrial conference.
Jake Wagner fathered a little girl with Hanna Rhoden about four years ago.
Investigators have said that an obsession over the custody of that child was a central issue in the murders of seven members of the Rhoden family, and one of their fiancées.
Jack Wagner, his mother, father, and brother are all facing eight murder charges and the two grandparents of the family are facing obstruction charges.
More pretrial conferences are scheduled next month for all four of the Wagner family members charged with murder.