UPDATE: Fredericka Wagner no longer facing charges in Rhoden family murders

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PIKE COUNTY, Ohio (WTAP, AP, WSAZ) - UPDATE: 6/26/19 6:30 P.M.

Prosecutors have asked a judge to dismiss all charges against a woman who was arrested in connection with an Ohio family massacre.

Fredericka Wagner is no longer facing obstruction and perjury charges in connection with the murders of eight members of the Rhoden family in 2016.

Wagner's son, daughter-in-law and two grandsons have been charged in the killings and pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors said Wagner was charged for lying to investigators after they found two bulletproof vests at her home. Wagner said she bought them after the killings to protect her family.

According to court documents, prosecutors filed a motion to dismiss without prejudice Wednesday because a new development in the case will not allow for both sides to be prepared for trial.

State prosecutors received new information from the defense on March 14. The Cyber Crimes Unit and the Criminal Intelligence Unit of the Ohio Attorney General's Bureau of Criminal Investigation is now investigating that new information.

"The investigation is ongoing, and has already led to new and favorable evidence, but it will take more time to complete," court records said.

Prosecutors do not think the results of the investigation will be available by the July 29 trial date.

"These results are necessary to the State of the Ohio prior to trial and would also need to be disclosed to the defendant with sufficient time for the defendant to prepare," the court documents state.

Wagner is also asking, through her attorneys, for the state to disclose certain search warrants and affidavits. Prosecutors argue that the warrants and affidavits do not pertain to Wagner.

The Ohio Attorney General's Office executed the search warrants during the homicide investigation, and prosecuting attorneys said Wagner's charges are about lying to investigators more than two years after the killings.


UPDATE: 06/14/19

The trial of one of the grandmothers charged in connection with the murders of eight people in Ohio has been delayed.

Rita Newcomb was in a Waverly courtroom for a pretrial hearing Friday.

Her attorney asked for a continuance so both sides could discuss discovery in the case.

The judge granted the request and set a new trial date.

Newcomb is accused of forging guardianship papers for Hanna Rhoden and her two grandsons-- Jake and George Wagner.

Prosecutors allege the documents were forged days before the two Wagner men took part in the murders of seven members of the Rhoden family and a girlfriend.

Newcomb is charged with forgery, obstruction of justice, and perjury.

Her new trial date is October 21st.


UPDATE: 04/06/19

The Ohio House has passed legislation that could help cover the anticipated multimillion-dollar cost of prosecuting the potential death-penalty cases of four relatives charged in the slayings of eight members from another family.

The bill is aimed at helping counties with smaller budgets deal with the costs of prosecuting capital cases and ensuring defendants have legal representation. Counties facing such costs could get financial help if a legislative panel that oversees certain spending approves their requests.

It could immediately benefit Pike County, where four members of the Wagner family have pleaded not guilty in the 2016 Rhoden family slayings.

Pike County officials say they don't have the money to bear the prosecution costs and keep up basic county services.

The legislation now goes to the Senate for consideration.

(Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


UPDATE: 03/23/19

Prosecutors in Ohio are opposing a request to dismiss the charges against a woman facing charges in connection to the killings of eight people nearly three years ago.

Attorneys for 76-year-old Fredericka Wagner want a judge to drop obstruction and perjury charges against her.

Wagner's son, daughter-in-law and two grandsons have pleaded not guilty to the 2016 slayings of eight Rhoden family members in Pike County.

Wagner's attorney says there are records dealing with the purchase of two bulletproof vests that can show the charges against her should be dropped.

WKRC in Cincinnati reports that prosecutors said in a court filing on Friday that issue needs to be settled at trial. They also say Wagner's attorney had many months to turn over the records.

A hearing is set for Thursday.

___

Information from: WKRC-TV, http://www.wkrc.com

(Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


UPDATE: 1/18/2019

One of four suspects charged with murdering eight members of the Rhoden family in April, 2016 appeared in Pike County, Ohio Court on Thursday.

George "Billy" Wagner III is charged with eight counts of aggravated murder and related crimes.

During Thursday's hearing, the judge ordered Wagner to have no contact with his co-defendants.

Wagner's lawyers were also given additional time to file motions in the case.

The eight victims were all found shot to death in April, 2016.

Wagner's wife and the couple's two adult sons are also charged with planning the crimes and carrying out the killings.

Ohio governor Mike DeWine, who was the Ohio Attorney General at the time of the arrests, said a custody dispute, between one of Wagner's sons and one of the victims with whom he shared a child, played a role in the killings.


UPDATE: 12/16/18

Ohio lawmakers have passed a measure providing $100,000 to help cover the costs of prosecuting suspects in the slayings of eight people.

The Ohio House early Friday approved the funding, which now heads to Republican Gov. John Kasich (KAY'-sihk). The money will go toward upcoming trials in Pike County in southern Ohio for four defendants in the killings.

Last month, a grand jury indicted four members of the Wagner family - George "Billy" Wagner III, Angela Wagner, Edward "Jake" Wagner, and George Wagner IV - on a host of charges, including eight counts of aggravated murder each.

Each of the Wagners has pleaded not guilty. Each faces the death penalty if convicted.

The Wagners are charged in the 2016 shootings of eight members of the Rhoden family.

(Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


UPDATE: 11/28/2018

The second of four Wagner family members charged in the 2016 murders of the Rhoden family in Pike County, Ohio pleads "not guilty" to aggravated murder and other charges.

27-year old George Wagner IV appeared Wednesday in Pike County Court, where he pleaded "not guilty" to 22 counts, including aggravated murder.

He, his parents and his brother Jake are all accused of killing seven adults and a teenager, all members of the Rhoden family, back in 2016.

Officials believe a child custody dispute may have been the motive.

George Wagner is currently being held without bond.

George Wagner is the second family member to be arraigned, after his brother, Jake, appeared in court Tuesday, also pleading not guilty.

Their parents will also appear in court later this week.


UPDATE 11/27/2018, 11:55 A.M.

The first of four Wagner family members charged in the 2016 murders of the Rhoden family in Pike County, Ohio pleads "not guilty" to aggravated murder and other charges.

Edward "Jake" Wagner, 26, from South Webster, Ohio, faced a judge for his 23-count indictment for the April 2016 murders.

Wagner, his brother George, and their parents Billy and Angela each face a long list of charges including eight counts of aggravated murder, one for each Rhoden victim.

No bond was set in his hearing.

Wagner was also arraigned on charges of aggravated burglary and conspiracy.

Prosecutors allege the Wagners carefully plotted the massacre and planned for months.

Court documents say the Wagners allegedly bought ammunition, a magazine clip, brass catcher(s), and a bug detector in preparation for the crimes.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says the suspects also watched the Rhodens and their routines.

They knew the layouts of their homes and where they slept.

Wagner was also the ex-boyfriend of Hannah Rhoden -- one of the eight dead -- and the father of her 2-year-old child.

The pair were in a custody dispute at the time of the killings.

Surviving Rhodens were in the courtroom during the arraignment and appeared emotional as the judge read out some of the disturbing allegations that lead to their loved ones' deaths.

Wagner's brother, George Wagner IV, is due in court Wednesday morning.

Angela Wagner, their mother, will appear Thursday afternoon.

George "Billy" Wagner, their father, will face a judge on his charges on Dec. 4.


UPDATE: 11/13/18 3 P.M.

Two grandmothers accused of covering up the Rhoden-family massacre are appearing in court Thursday.

Rita Newcomb and Fredericka Wagner are accused of interfering with the investigation and misleading authorities.

Eight members of Rhoden family were found dead at four different crime scenes in Pike County in April 2016. Investigators say they were shot execution-style.

Killed were Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40 and his ex-wife Dana Manley Rhoden, 37; their three children, Hanna May Rhoden, 19, Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16, and Clarence "Frankie" Rhoden, 20. Frankie's fiancee, Hannah "Hazel" Gilley, 20, was also killed, along with Christopher Rhoden's older brother, Kenneth Rhoden, 44; and cousin Gary Rhoden, 38.

Newcomb's son, Wagner's daughter, and two grandsons are accused of carefully planning and carrying out the mass murder. Investigators say George "Billy" Wagner III, his wife Angela Wagner, and their sons George Wagner IV and Edward "Jake" Wagner were prime suspects for some time.

The first to appear in court Thursday was Fredericka Wagner. She is from Lucasville and is George "Billy" Wagner's mother.

Members of the Rhoden family were in the courtroom as Fredericka pleaded not guilty.

While discussing bond, prosecutors said it is their understanding that the Wagners had a plan to “seek revenge” if any one of them were arrested. The prosecution claims the targets of that revenge would have been Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader.

The prosecution requested a $200,000 bond for Fredericka Wagner.

Then, the defense argued that she has no prior record -- not even a speeding ticket. Her attorney also said Fredericka believes her entire family is innocent.

The judge set her bond at $100,000. She is not allowed to have contact with the Rhoden family. If she is released on bond, she will be on house arrest at her home in Lucasville.

Newcomb's arraignment was next. She is from South Webster and is Angela Wagner's mother.

Like Fredericka, Newcomb pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors asked again for a $200,000 bond, saying the forgery charge was "at the epicenter" of the motive. Newcomb is accused of forging child-custody documents between Hanna Rhoden, one of the victims, and Jake Wagner, one of the suspects and Newcomb's grandson.

Her lawyer told the judge that Newcomb is a grandmother who depends on social security as well as a school teacher. The attorney also argued that she is not charged with violent offenses.

The judge set Newcomb's bond at $50,000. If she gets out on bond, she will be under house arrest at her mother's home.


UPDATE: 11/13/2018, 4:46 p.m.

Investigators explain how they found the alleged killers of eight members of the Rhoden family, who were shot "execution-style" in their homes in Pike County, Ohio in April, 2016.

In a news conference Tuesday evening, investigators detailed how they were finally able to arrest four people allegedly involved in the deaths and two others accused of trying to cover up the killings.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine addressed the media, along with Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader and Pike County Prosecutor Rob Junk.

"I can never erase them," Reader said about the crime scenes that remain in his memory. "We have obsessively focused on solving this case. We have been patient when it was painful to be, running down every lead no matter how small. It all has brought us to this day. Today we have the answer."

The killings happened in April 2016 and changed the small community forever.

On Monday, a Pike County grand jury indicted each of four suspects on eight counts of aggravated murder with death-penalty specification.

DeWine said the suspects are responsible for a "heartless, ruthless, cold-blooded murder."

The suspects are all members of the Wagner family from South Webster.

George "Billy" Wagner III, 47, was arrested in Fayette County, Kentucky; Angela Wagner, 48, was arrested at her home in Scioto County; and George Wagner IV, 27, and Edward "Jake" Wagner, 26, were arrested during a traffic stop in Ross County, Ohio.

DeWine also announced the arrest of Rita Newcomb, Angela Wagner's mother, and Fredericka Wagner, Billy Wagner's mother for allegedly trying to cover up the killings.

Their charges relate to actions that intentionally misled authorities, DeWine said.

"Each one of us pledged to never give up," said DeWine as he thanked the victims' family members for their patience.

DeWine said the Wagners were "prime suspects for some time."

Both DeWine and Reader emphasized that the alleged killers were "familiar with the territory" and spent months planning the slayings.
"They studied the victims' habits and routines," DeWine said.

He added that the suspects also tampered with evidence, including the victims' phones and security cameras.

"They did this quickly, coldly, calmly, and carefully," said Reader. "But not carefully enough."

The suspects are facing several other charges including conspiracy, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, aggravated burglary for allegedly breaking into the homes, tampering with evidence, forgery, and obstruction of justice.

The victims were Hannah Gilley, 20; Christopher Rhoden, Sr., 40; Christopher Rhoden, Jr., 16; Clarence "Frankie" Rhoden, 20; Dana Rhoden, 37; Gary Rhoden, 38; Hanna Rhoden, 19; and Kenneth Rhoden, 44.

A 3-year-old, 6-month-old, and 5-day-old were spared.

"Because this is an open prosecution, we won't be able to say much about motive, but you'll see from the indictments that custody of that young child plays a role in this case," DeWine said.

He did not elaborate any further, except to say that it's a bizarre story and involves "obsession" over custody.

In July, a judge ordered a grand jury to look at all of the evidence.

On Oct. 30, investigators finally had their last piece of evidence, although DeWine would not specify what that evidence was. "I don't really want to go into that further." He did clarify that it was not a game-changing piece of evidence.

DeWine called it the most labor-intensive case his office has ever undertaken. He said investigators followed more than 1,100 tips, conducted more than 550 interviews, traveled to ten different states and put in tens of thousands of hours into the investigation.

"What solved this case was just hard, tough police work day after day after day," said DeWine.

Although charges were just announced, the Wagner family has been on investigators' radar for quite some time.

In June 2017, the Associated Press reported that an attorney for the Wagner family said his clients were being harassed by the attorney general's office, despite their cooperation. The Wagner family lived in Ohio at the time of the killings, but moved to Alaska in 2017. At the time, Mike DeWine wouldn't say why investigators have a "special focus" on the Wagners.

A reporter asked DeWine about rumors that circulated over the last two years -- particularly, that drugs played a role. On Tuesday, DeWine did say there was an "undercurrent" of drug activity, but said he could not point to that as a motive.

Investigators said they have all of their suspects and do not think anyone outside of their custody was involved. However, say people should still report tips about this case.

Junk said the suspects' court appearances have yet to be determined.

Nearly two dozen agencies from 10 different states and Canada helped: Adams County Sheriff's Office, Buckeye State Sheriffs' Association, Butler County Sheriff's Office, Chillicothe Police Department, Clark County Prosecutor's Office, Columbus Division of Police, Delaware County Sheriff's Office, Franklin County Prosecutor's Office, Franklin County Sheriff's Office, Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office, Ohio Air National Guard, Ohio Crisis Response Team, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, Ohio Department of Taxation, Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission, Ohio State Highway Patrol, Pickaway County Sheriff's Office, Piketon Police Department, Portsmouth Police Department, Ross County Sheriff's Office, Scioto County Prosecutor's Office, Scioto County Sheriff's Office, U.S. 23 Major Crimes Task Force, Warren County Prosecutor's Office, Warren County Sheriff's Office, Waverly Police Department, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Customs and Border Patrol, Drug Enforcement Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Ohio, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.


UPDATE: 11/13/2018, 1:35 p.m.

Four members of the Wagner family have been arrested and charged in the murders of eight members of the Rhoden family in Pike County, Ohio in April, 2016.

On Tuesday, the Ohio Attorney General's Office announced the arrests of four members of the Wagner family, of South Webster, Ohio, in the murders of eight people people from the Rhoden family, who were found shot to death at four homes in Pike County on April 22, 2016.

The four people arrested and charged are:
George "Billy" Wagner III, 47
Angela Wagner, 48
George Wagner IV, 27
Edward "Jake" Wagner, 26

The murder victims are:
Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40, his ex-wife Dana Manley Rhoden, 37, and their three children, Hanna May Rhoden, 19, Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16, and Clarence "Frankie" Rhoden, 20. Frankie Rhoden's fiancée, Hannah "Hazel" Gilley, 20, was also killed, along with the elder Christopher Rhoden's brother Kenneth Rhoden, 44, and cousin Gary Rhoden, 38.

Authorities say they will release more details on the suspects and the investigation at a news conference at 4:00 p.m. Tuesday.


UPDATE: 12/23/17 7:30 P.M.

A newspaper has asked the Ohio Supreme Court to reconsider its decision rejecting requests for unredacted autopsy reports from the unsolved slayings of eight family members.

The court ruled 4-3 last week the Pike County coroner does not have to release the reports with complete information.

The case involves seven adults and a teenage boy from the Rhoden family who were found shot to death at four homes near Piketon in April 2016.

The Cincinnati Enquirer on Friday asked the court to reconsider, saying its ruling sets a precedent allowing investigators to shield records on "an impossibly vague standard."

The attorney general's office says the reconsideration will be opposed.

Authorities want to shield some autopsy information, arguing its release could compromise their investigation.

(Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


UPDATE: 12/15/2017

A divided Ohio Supreme Court has rejected requests for the unredacted autopsy reports from the unsolved slayings of eight family members.

The court ruled 4-3 on Thursday that the Pike County coroner in southern Ohio does not have to release the reports with complete information.

The case involves seven adults and a teenage boy from the Rhoden family who were found shot to death at four homes near Piketon in April 2016.

The Columbus Dispatch and The Cincinnati Enquirer separately sued for access to the full autopsies.

Authorities want to shield information, arguing that its release could compromise the investigation. The coroner also says victims' relatives raised concerns about sharing details of how their loved ones died.

(Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


UPDATE: 05/17 4 P.M.

The brother of one of eight victims of an unsolved southern Ohio massacre has appeared in court for a hearing on evidence-tampering and vandalism charges over allegations he destroyed a GPS tracking device.

James Manley, 40, of Peebles, appeared in Pike County Court on the felony charges Wednesday. A judge set an $80,000 bond. Court records don't indicate if Manley has an attorney.

Investigators trying to solve the slayings placed the tracking device on Manley's truck last month.

Manley was jailed after turning himself in on Tuesday.

Manley's sister, Dana Rhoden, was among the eight members of the Rhoden family killed in April 2016. They were found shot at four homes near Piketon, about 70 miles (113 kilometers) south of Columbus.

No arrests have been made in the slayings.


UPDATE: 05/16/2017 4:40 P.M.

The Ohio Attorney General's Office says a man has been charged with evidence tampering during the investigation into the deaths of eight members of southern Ohio family last spring.

James Manley, 40, of Pike County, a brother one of the victims, is charged with tampering with evidence and vandalism.

According to a release, Manley is alleged to have destroyed a GPS device being used in the investigation..

The device was being used to investigate the murders of eight members of the Rhoden family in April 2016.

Seven adults and a teenage boy were found shot to death at four homes near Piketon, Ohio, in April 2016.

As part of the investigation, investigators have seized a trailer linked to the family of one victim's boyfriend.

Bernie Brown owns property in Peebles where the trailer had been stored. He says its owners needed a place to keep household items after recently selling a farm in Adams County.

On April 21, the one-year anniversary of the murders, surviving family members released a video pleading for information about the case.

So far, there have been no other arrests in the case.


The Ohio Supreme Court has received the unredacted autopsy reports of 8 family members murdered in Piketon, as it considers media lawsuits seeking access to those full reports from the unsolved case.

Court filings Wednesday indicated the reports from the Pike County coroner have been submitted under seal following the justices' April 19 request for them.

The case involves seven adults and a teenage boy from the Rhoden family who were found shot to death at four homes in southern Ohio last year.

The Columbus Dispatch and The Cincinnati Enquirer separately sued for access to the full autopsies.

Authorities want to shield information, arguing its release could compromise their investigation. The coroner says victims' relatives raised concerns about sharing details of how their loved ones died.



 
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