WAVERLY, Ohio (WCMH) — George Wagner IV testified in his own defense Wednesday in the Rhoden family massacre trial.
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.
George “Billy” Wagner III, Angela Wagner, George Wagner IV, and Edward “Jake” Wagner were accused of murder for the deaths of eight members of the Rhoden family. However, on the stand, George IV told the court that he never took part in or had any knowledge of the Rhoden family killings.
“What do you think of the Rhodens?” his defense attorney asked.
“Normal people to me. Same as everybody else I hung out with in life … I liked them,” George IV said.
During his testimony that stretched throughout the day, George IV said once Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents revealed his family’s actions to him, he decided to help investigators by spying on the other Wagners. He also recalled how his mother Angela and father Billy raised him and Jake, and recalled times they taught him how to steal.
Watch George IV’s nearly 7-hour testimony in the video player below:
On Nov. 3, Wagner IV’s mother, Angela Wagner, finished her testimony against her son in which she 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. Angela pleaded guilty in September 2021 to several charges but not to any of the murder charges she was facing.
Jake Wagner, Wagner IV’s brother, changed his plea to not guilty in 2021 and revealed shocking testimony in late October during the trial. During cross-examination, George’s defense attorney asked Jake whether George had argued against the idea of killing the Rhoden family, with Jake responding that he had. Jake also told the court that only he and Billy shot and killed the family, while George IV hesitated to pull the trigger.
Prosecutors did not have a chance to cross-examine George IV during trial on Wednesday, meaning that could come the following day.