COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – The jury in George Wagner IV’s trial is set to begin deliberations Wednesday, hoping to reach a verdict regarding his involvement in the Rhoden family massacre.
The jury in Pike County began receiving instructions Tuesday on each of the 22 counts that George IV faces, after both the prosecution and defense made their closing arguments. Both sides wrapped up testimony in the weekslong trial, where the defendant took the stand himself to claim he had no knowledge of his family’s involvement in the eight deaths.
Investigators arrested the entire Wagner clan in 2018 for the 2016 killings. George IV is the first of the four to go to trial, pleading not guilty. However, his mother Angela and brother Edward “Jake” both pleaded guilty. Both Angela and Jake pleaded guilty to avoid the death penalty, and agreed to testify against George IV.
It was his mother and brother’s testimony that prosecutors touted heavily in closing.
“They matched, the only way that happens, without her knowing what he said, is that they’re telling the truth about what they observed, what they knew,” said Special Prosecutor Andy Wilson.
Wilson referenced the testimony from the pair that George IV assisted in planning, executing and trying to cover up a murder plot against the Rhodens, stemming from a custody dispute over Jake’s daughter with Hanna Rhoden. However, Jake also said in court that he and father were the only two who shot and killed the Rhoden family members; George IV hesitated and did not pull the trigger.
George IV’s defense team fired back. Attorney John Parker told the court that Angela and Jake’s extensive criminal records make their confessions unreliable evidence.
“There’s no proof here beyond a reasonable doubt, that George was even up there. And we could offer him nothing for his testimony, he was vigorously cross-examined, you saw his demeanor, compare that to Jake and his mother’s,” Parker said. “Angela and Jake, he’s a momma’s boy, you heard testimony about that. They’re liars, they’re con artists, they’re thieves.”
During the prosecution’s rebuttal, Wilson also touted several pieces of evidence at the crime scenes: footprints matching those of George and Jake Wagner, and shell casings matching those found at the Wagner’s house.
“As they plot, as they prepare, as they execute, as they cover up those murders, he’s in it, up to his eyeballs,” Wilson said.
While the death penalty is off the table, George IV is facing eight different counts of aggravated murder for each member of the Rhoden family, alongside conspiracy, aggravated burglary and tampering with evidence charges. His father, George “Billy” Wagner III, awaits trial.