PIKE COUNTY, Ohio (WCMH) — After Edward ‘Jake’ Wagner pleaded guilty to all charges against him, prosecutors read a previously undisclosed account of evidence that led to the arrest of the Wagner family.
Christopher Rhoden Sr., Dana Rhoden, Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, Christopher Rhoden Jr., Hanna Rhoden, Hannah Gilley, Gary Rhoden and Kenneth Rhoden were all found dead the morning of April 22, 2016. The Pike County Sheriff’s Office said three young children, including a baby, were discovered unharmed.
Redacted autopsy reports show most victims were shot multiple times.
According to prosecutors, the investigation showed whoever committed the homicides took the phones of two of the victims. That, along with trail cameras and a security system DVR led investigators to the Wagner family.
Searches of the Wagners’ home on Peterson Road revealed shell casings that matched those used in the killings, according to prosecutors. There was also evidence that shoes were purchased that matched footprints left behind in blood.
The Wagners were then questioned at the Canadian border, where more evidence was seized, including a laptop and the Wagners’ phones. Investigators say they found a screenshot on the confiscated laptop that showed the Wagners gained unauthorized access to the Facebook account of two people.
The screen shots revealed a growing dispute over the custody of Jake Wagner and Hanna May Rhoden’s shared child. In one screenshot, Hanna May Rhoden told another person that she would never sign custody papers.
That’s when investigators say Jake, George and Angela Wagner executed custody documents that designated Jake and Hanna’s daughter would go to Jake if Hanna were to die. The document was made to look like it was signed a year prior. According to prosecutors, it had a fake signature and unauthorized use of a notary stamp belonging to Angela Wagner’s mother, Rita Newcomb.
Newcomb came forward when prosecutors said she felt she could not continue to lie for her daughter.
For three months leading up to the killings, prosecutors say the Wagners purchased items in preparation. Items included brass catchers, ammunition, magazines, a phone jammer, and items for building silencers for different caliber weapons. The remains of a failed prototype silencer were found on the Wagners’ property.
Jake Wagner recently sat down with prosecutors, where he led investigators to the weapons that were used in three of the killings, along with vehicles used during the offenses.
Prosecutors say that based on all this information, they have overwhelming evidence that the Wagner family was responsible for planning and carrying out the homicides.