WAVERLY, Ohio (WCMH) — Angela Wagner finished testifying against her son, George Wagner IV, in the Pike County massacre trial Thursday.
While under cross-examination on the stand, Angela Wagner confessed to helping her family plan and cover up the killings of the Rhoden family in 2016. In exchange for her testimony, the state offered her a 30-year deal — avoiding the death penalty. But it wasn’t a decision she made lightly.
“I love George just as much as I love Jacob,” Angela Wagner told jurors. “This is not easy for me.”
Her other son, Jake Wagner, who previously testified against Wagner IV, also pled guilty to the murders to avoid the death penalty.
Wagner told the jury that she believed she was guilty in the killings, and that she came forward to repent for her sins.
Eight members of the Rhoden family were found dead in Pike County on April 22, 2016. Prosecutors claimed the murders stemmed from a custody dispute over the daughter of Jake Wagner and Hanna May Rhoden, one of the victims. The other victims were Christopher Rhoden Sr., Dana Rhoden, Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, Christopher Rhoden Jr., Hannah Gilley, Gary Rhoden, and Kenneth Rhoden.
Angela Wagner testified earlier this week that her family began plotting the murders after Jake Wagner and Hanna May Rhoden separated, claiming they feared the child was being abused. The group held meetings planning the Rhoden killings away from phones and technology out of fear of being recorded, she said.
In his testimony, Jake Wagner told jurors how the family prepared to kill the Rhodens, including by purchasing guns specifically for the crimes and creating makeshift silencers. He also testified that of the family, only Wagner IV and the family patriarch — Jake “Billy” Wagner III — shot the victims.
The defense asked Angela Wagner whether she approved of her family’s plans and actions.
“No, but I went along with it,” she testified.
Like other witnesses in this case, Angela Wagner’s testimony was not recorded per a judge’s order.
George IV has pleaded not guilty to the murders, and his defense has said he did not participate in the killings. Jake Wagner, who pled guilty in 2021, previously testified that his brother hesitated to pull the trigger when the family was shooting the Rhodens. Billy Wagner still awaits trial.