WAVERLY, Ohio (WCMH) – Prosecutors interrogated the mother of a man on trial for murder Tuesday, who also admitted some involvement in the deaths of eight people in Pike County.
Angela Wagner — who pled guilty to 14 charges not including murder — took questions on the stand regarding her son, George Wagner IV, and his brother Jake. The first is currently on trial for the murder of eight members of the Rhoden family, while the latter pled guilty to the murders in 2021. Prosecutors have claimed the murders stemmed from a custody dispute over the daughter of Jake Wagner and Hanna May Rhoden, one of the victims.
Jake previously testified last Wednesday that he and the pair’s father, George “Billy” Wagner III, were the only two to pull the trigger. George IV hesitated, but Jake also said that every member of his family had participated in some way. He and Angela both agreed to testify as part of their individual plea deals.
Angela gave the prosecutors some of her family history, including how she raised the two boys in their youth. She said she pulled the brothers out of public school after only two or three weeks, and instead taught them at home until they graduated from high school. Angela added that her husband, George III, taught their sons survival skills, and how to steal from trucks and safes.
During the latest trial date for George IV, Angela also admitted to the court her role in arson fires. She said the family intentionally burned down some of their own property to collect insurance money. She also spent some time detailing Jake’s relationship with Hanna May Rhoden, leading up to the moment she learned the murder victim was pregnant with her grandchild.
After Jake and Hanna separated, the pair had shared custody of their daughter. The Wagners’ mother told prosecutors that the grandchild’s hesitancy to return to Hanna appeared as a sign of abuse. That’s when she and the other Wagners began planning how to keep the child for themselves. The group held meetings planning the Rhoden killings away from phones and technology out of fear of being recorded.
Angela’s in-person testimony wasn’t the first time her voice came up before the jury. Prosecutors played a recording of a two-hour interview between the Wagner matriarch and Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents. The agents question her about bullet casings matching the crime scene in the Wagner family’s driveway, as well as about boot prints. In the audio, Angela denied the connection before refusing to answer questions and asking for a lawyer.
George IV has pleaded not guilty in the case.