WAVERLY, Ohio (WCMH) — Jake Wagner, the brother of George Wagner IV, took the stand for a fourth day in Pike County on Friday to testify during his brother’s murder trial.
It was the second day of cross-examination by the defense — and some of it focused on how Jake Wagner’s parents raised them. The brothers are part of the family accused of killing eight members of the Rhoden family in 2016, and Jake Wagner, who pled guilty in April 2021, has served as a witness for the prosecution since Monday.
In court Friday, Jake Wagner testified his father Billy Wagner taught him how to steal and pick locks when he was only a teenager. He also said he assisted his father in stealing trailers, cargo, fuel, and other items off of trucks.
Jake Wagner’s mother Angela Wagner homeschooled him, but allowed him to pick and choose the subjects: he took subjects he was interested in like math and science, and then she would do his work in others.
He also said she taught him how to commit arson — even to burn down properties in order to collect the insurance money.
The defense also questioned Jake Wagner over his relationship with the Rhodens, including asking him whether he truly loved Hanna May Rhoden — who he was in a relationship with — even though he admitted to killing her and several members of her family.
Jake Wagner told the defense he did love her, but said he was also concerned for their daughter’s safety, believing that she was being abused.
The defense then made the case that Jake Wagner had lied to the Rhodens, the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, and his own attorneys before receiving a plea bargain, characterizing him as a liar.
Jake Wagner just said that he was.
On Friday, prosecutors also readdressed some of the details brought up about their childhood. They questioned Jake Wagner on whether George Wagner IV learned those same skills, or participated in any of those behaviors.
Jake Wagner testified George Wagner IV learned how to steal items off of trucks and trailers as well, but that he never committed any thefts himself. He also said George Wagner IV received the same homeschooling he did and that his mother would similarly do his assignments.
He also said George Wagner IV never participated in the arson his mother and he committed, but that he knew of their actions.
Friday was the last day of testimony for Jake Wagner, and mother Angela Wagner is expected to testify next week.