- In 2016, residents in rural Pike County, Ohio, were rocked by a bloody massacre
- Six adults and a 16-year-old boy – all from the Rhoden family – were murdered
- There were rumors of a drug cartel but the truth would be much closer to home
A new documentary is shedding light on the chilling true story of eight members of the same family who were killed in a single night after being shot ‘execution style’ as they slept.
In 2016, residents in rural Pike County, Ohio, were rocked by a bloody massacre, which saw seven adults and a 16-year-old boy – all from the Rhoden family – murdered across four separate crime scenes.
The gruesome discovery, which included evidence of marijuana cultivation, initially sparked speculation about drug cartel involvement but the truth would turn out to be much closer to home.
Here, FEMAIL has laid bare the sordid details of the case as Oxygen uncovers The Pike County Murders: A Family Massacre.
The harrowing story, which was soon dubbed the largest murder investigation in Ohio’s history, began to unravel on the morning of April 22, 2016.
The bodies of eight members of the same family were found across three mobile homes and a camper with all but one having been shot in the head.
The victims were quickly identified as members of the Rhoden family with autopsies later revealing their causes of death.
Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40, was among the first to be killed and had been shot nine times, suffering wounds to his torso, cheek and right forearm that shattered bone in an apparent defensive wound.
He was found in the same trailer as cousin Gary Rhoden, 38, who had been shot twice in the head and once in the face – with one of the shots leaving a ‘muzzle stain’ where the gun was pressed against his skin.
Christopher Sr.’s older brother Kenneth, 44, who was found dead in a camper about three miles away, had been shot once through his right eye.
His former wife, Dana Manley Rhoden, 38, and two of the couple’s children – Hanna Rhoden, 19, and Chris Rhoden, Jr., 16 – were found in a separate trailer.
Dana had been shot four times to the side of the head and a fifth under her chin with Hanna and Chris Jr. both sustaining multiple gunshot wounds to the head.
Hanna’s five-day-old daughter, who was found in the bed with her, was unharmed.
Elsewhere, Clarence ‘Frankie’ Rhoden, 20, and his 20-year-old fiancée, Hannah Gilley, were found slaughtered in bed.
Their six-month-old son, who had been sleeping between them, as well as another child who had been sleeping on a couch in the trailer were also left unharmed.
In a 911 call from the scene, a distraught relative revealed that there was ‘blood all over the house’ as one witness revealed how ‘the killer left those children laying in their mothers’ blood.’
Authorities rushed to the scene which was described by witnesses as ‘overkill.’
In the aftermath, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced that ‘sophisticated’ marijuana ‘grow operations’ were found at three of the four crime scenes.
This initially led them to believe that the ‘execution-style’ killings had been at the hands of a local gang or drug cartel.
But more than a year passed without any substantial leads.
In May 2017, however, officers descended on the scene of a 71-acre estate, once owned by Edward ‘Jake’ Wagner who had been Hanna’s longtime boyfriend.
The former couple, who had started dating when Hannah was 13, shared then three-year-old daughter Sophie, who had been staying with the Wagner family when the killings happened.
Jake, along with his parents and brother, moved to Kenai, Alaska, with the youngster in the aftermath of the murders and claimed at the time that they were relocating to escape unfair speculation that they were responsible.
But the family were forced to return to Ohio in 2018 when they ran out of money and police finally made their arrests in November of that year.
Jake, then 26, was arrested and charged alongside his parents – Angela Wagner, then 48, and George ‘Billy’ Wagner III, then 47 – as well as brother George Wagner IV, then 27.
Two other family members – Angela’s 65-year-old mother Rita Newcomb and Billy’s 76-year-old mother Fredericka Wagner – were also arrested and accused of covering up the murders.
Authorities claimed that the motive for the heinous crime spree was the battle for custody over toddler Sophie.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said in a press conference at the time that ‘there was an obsession with control of the children,’ with prosecutors arguing that the Wagner family had planned the killings for months.
Investigators claimed the family bought ammunition, a magazine clip, brass catchers and a bug detector to prepare for the crimes.
It is claimed that they constructed a homemade silencer that was used in the shootings and used ‘counter-surveillance devices’ on the properties as well as tampering with phones, cameras and parts of a home security system.
Forged documents were also allegedly found on the computer purporting that Hanna had agreed to share custody.
The Wagners took phones from six of the victims, as well as a recording device and trail cameras, according to investigators.
Hanna had reportedly been pushed by the Wagners to give custody to Jake, but later wrote on social media – just months before the slayings – that ‘they will have to kill me first.’
Jake eventually testified that her comment was his ‘tipping point’ and claimed that he was worried that his daughter was at risk for abuse from her new boyfriend.
‘I had no other choice than to kill Hanna,’ Jake said in a crowded courtroom.
Jake was sentenced to eight life terms in prison after pleading guilty under a plea deal.
He agreed to testify against George and their parents in a bid to help the family avoid potential death sentences.
Angela was sentenced to 30 years in prison after agreeing to a plea deal where she admitted conspiracy to murder the family of eight.
George Wagner IV pleaded not guilty to the charges, but was convicted on 22 counts in December 2022.
These included eight of aggravated murder for each victim of the Rhoden family as well as charges related to conspiracy and attempts to cover up evidence.
He was ordered to serve eight consecutive life sentences plus another 121 years.
Their father, George ‘Billy’ Wagner III, pleaded not guilty to the killings and awaits trial.
Rita has since gone on trial for obstructing the course of justice and perjury while Fredericka had charges against her dropped.
The Pike County Murders: A Family Massacre will premiere on November 24.