George “Billy” Wagner III, Angela Wagner George Wagner IV and Edward “Jake” Wagner were arrested in connection to the 2016 Rhoden family murders, according to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
Photo: Ohio Attorney General’s Office
Photo: Ohio Attorney General’s Office

Pike County murders: Who are the Wagners?

In a media release, the office said four members of the South Webster, Ohio, family -- George Billy Wagner III, 47, Angela Wagner, 48, George Wagner IV, 27, and Edward Jake Wagner, 26 -- were taken into custody.

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The Wagners have been charged with planning and carrying out the murders of eight people on April 22, 2016. The victims included a husband, wife, their two adult sons, and the fiance of one of the sons. 

Here’s what we know about the suspects:

Edward Jake Wagner is the 24-year-old who fathered a daughter with Hanna Rhoden. He is one of four people investigators wanted more information about after the murders of Rhoden and seven others in Pike County. His grandmother Fredericka Wagner said in April 2017 that he said nothing to do with murders. 

“They have nothing,” Fredericka Wagner said in a 2017 Dayton Daily News interview. “Their searches have turned up zilch. Nothing. And they aren’t going to either because Jake had nothing to do with it.”

Angela Wagner and George “Billy” Wagner are Edward “Jake” Wagner’s parents. George Wagner IV is his brother.

Here’s what we know about the Wagner family:

In 2017, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine had not named any of the Wagners as suspects in the case. But he asked the public to come forward with information about Jake Wagner, Angela Wagner, George “Billy” Wagner III, and George Wagner IV. He believed all lived in Alaska. 

DeWine’s request was met with so many calls to Alaska authorities that the Anchorage Police Department asked residents to stop calling.

Life in Alaska

According to interviews and a 2017 Dayton Daily News review of the family’s social media accounts, the family appeared to have settled on Alaska’s mountainous Kenai Peninsula --  roughly half the size of Ohio. The peninsula’s largest city, Kenai, is about three hours southwest of Anchorage and has a population of about 7,100 people.

According to Kelly Cinereski, a friend of the family who lives in Seward, Alaska, a two-hour drive from Kenai, the family has long sought to live in Alaska and made three trips there in the past decade.

Cinereski told the Daily News the Wagners fished during their previous trips to Alaska.

The peninsula is a fisherman’s paradise. The Kenai River, which winds through the peninsula, is the state’s most heavily fished river and is filled with salmon, trout and pike. Fishing and hunting appear to be Wagner family pastimes, as Jake Wagner, George Wagner III and Angela Wagner each possessed either Ohio hunting or fishing licenses over the past decade.

Life in Ohio

While rural, the Adams County, Ohio, is more affluent than much of southern Ohio. Unemployment is lower on the peninsula. Census data show the median household income is $63,684 compared to $42,778 in Adams County, Ohio, where the family lived.

Bernie Brown, who owns an Ohio 41 site where the family lived, told WCPO in 2017 that Jake Wagner sometimes worked for him fixing cars.

In May 2017, investigators also searched property formerly owned by Jake Wagner and George Wagner IV.

Then there was an abruptly arrest of James Manley, the brother of victim Dana Manley Rhoden, on charges of tampering with evidence and vandalism for allegedly destroying a state GPS tracker on his truck.

Manley’s father, Leonard Manley, accused authorities of attaching the tracker on the truck because of text messages allegedly exchanged between Jake Wagner and James Manley the night of the murders.

Days before DeWine’s announcement, Jake Wagner told the Cincinnati Enquirer the text messages “did not happen.”

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