WAVERLY, Ohio (WCMH) — In Pike County, the first witnesses in the murder trial of George Wagner IV took to the stand Tuesday, one of whom described the scene he found when he went to his slain sister’s home.
The jury heard testimony from a few witnesses, mostly relatives of the Rhoden family, as testimony began in the largest murder investigation case in Ohio’s history.
Most of those witnesses chose not to go on camera, but did give accounts of what they saw and heard on that tragic day six years ago.
On the first day of testimony in the Pike County massacre trial, the jury heard from those closest to the Rhoden family.
“There’s blood all over the house!” said Bobby Jo Manley, the younger sister of Dhana Rhoden during one of the 911 calls from April 22, 2016. “My brother-in-law is in the bedroom, and it looks like someone beat the hell out of him!”
Manley went to the family’s trailer, where she discovered her brother-in-law, Chris Rhoden Jr., dead.
Christopher Rhoden Sr., Dana Rhoden, Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, Christopher Rhoden Jr., Hanna Rhoden, Hannah Gilley, Gary Rhoden, and Kenneth Rhoden were all found dead on the morning of April 22, 2016. The Pike County Sheriff’s Office said three young children, including a baby, were discovered unharmed.
Later Tuesday, James Manley, Dana Rhoden’s brother, took the stand.
“Blood everywhere,” Manley testified. “It was on the body, on the bed, on the walls.”
Manley said when he arrived at another of the family’s trailers, he discovered one of the Rhoden’s children covered in blood, but unharmed.
“I walk up to the yard, and I see Frankie’s baby covered in blood,” he said.
Manley said that after that, he walked into the trailer and found both of the baby’s parents dead. He then called his wife shortly after.
“That Frankie and Hanna Hazel was dead,” Manley testified he told his wife during that call.
Authorities say the killings stemmed from a custody dispute over a child that Jake Wagner had with Hannah Rhoden.
The prosecution alleged that the Wagners spent months planning the massacre in retaliation for Hannah Rhoden refusing to hand over custody of the child.
The defense, however, argued that George Wagner IV was not aware of his family’s motives, and took no part in their actions.
Wagner’s younger brother Jake and his mother Angela reached plea deals with prosecutors to avoid the death penalty and are expected to testify against him. Jake and George’s father, Billy Wagner, is still awaiting trial.