Suspects in slaying of family of 8 to be in court


The Associated Press and Portsmouth Daily Times



WAVERLY, Ohio — Four people charged in the slayings of eight people in rural Ohio in 2016 are set for court hearings on aggravated murder charges and other counts.

Authorities say the four Wagner family members charged in the shooting deaths of eight Rhoden family members will be arraigned over the next two weeks in Pike County Common Pleas Court in Waverly.

Forty-seven-year-old George “Billy” Wagner III is set for a Dec. 4 hearing. His 48-year-old wife, Angela Wagner, is due in court Nov. 29. Their sons, 26-year-old Edward Wagner and 27-year-old George Wagner are scheduled for hearings Nov. 27 and Nov. 28, respectively.

An attorney who has represented the Wagners has said they will be vindicated.

Authorities have suggested a custody dispute over a child as a possible motive.

“We hate to even put these numbers out there,” said Pike County Commissioner Blaine Beekman, referring to possible costs connected with prosecuting six suspects, significantly including four death penalty cases, in connection with the infamous Rhoden family murders in April 2016.

Beekman said the case is so unique, it is pretty much impossible to put a dollar sign on the cost of prosecution. But he added estimates have ranged from anywhere between $2 million to $4 million.

“We don’t have that kind of money,” Beekman said.

Fellow county commissioner Tony Montgomery opined the prosecution team seems very confident they have the right people on trial for the bloody crime spree which put Pike County on the national map for all the wrong reasons. He added he obviously hopes justice is done.

“But justice isn’t cheap,” Montgomery added.

Montgomery stated he had been talking with state Rep. Shane Wilkin, R-91, who just won election to his first full term in office. Montgomery said Wilkin promised to investigate some financial help for Pike County in dealing with the fallout from the murders.

Beekman said the county already has spent approximately $600,000 investigating the case. A significant percentage of that money went towards constructing a building to house the trailers in which the murders happened. The county was required to preserve the trailers as evidence in the case. Beekman added initially the county leased a building for that purpose, but the structure went into foreclosure. Officials were forced to construct their own building to house the trailers. Beekman quickly noted the state reimbursed Pike County $130,000 of that cost. He said he didn’t want to give the impression the state or the Ohio Attorney General’s office, which helped investigate the case and will help in its prosecution, had abandoned Pike County.

According to Beekman , it is unclear how long local officials might have to hold onto those trailers, possibly until the end of the various trials. Both Beekman and Montgomery said as four of the cases involve the death penalty, with appeals and so on, those cases easily could last years.

It is still unclear as to whether Pike County will need to provide defense attorneys for the four persons directly accused of the Rhoden murders. Beekman said it is somewhat ironic the suspects in the case are fairly wealthy but the county in which the crimes were committed is not flush. He did note there is probably no county in Ohio which could afford to prosecute four death penalty cases on its own.

In addition to the basic cost of attorneys, investigators and so on, Beekman said additional trial related costs can include such things as transporting suspects to hearings. He seems to expect defense attorneys will ask for a change in venue. The murders have attracted so much attention officials said Tuesday it may be difficult to find local jurors with no preconceived notions regarding the case.

The Associated Press and Portsmouth Daily Times