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Jury Finds Wagner Family Member Guilty in 2016 Multiple Murder Case

A jury returned a guilty verdict Wednesday in the first trial stemming from the 2016 execution-style killings of eight members of a family in southern Ohio that prosecutors say was carried out by members of another family. George Wagner IV was found guilty of eight counts of aggravated murder in Pike County Common Pleas Court, reports the Wall Street Journal. Wagner, 31, was found guilty of 14 other charges, including tampering with evidence, burglary and forgery. Prosecutors said that while he didn’t fire a weapon, he actively participated in carrying out the killings and covering them up. The killings led to the largest homicide investigation in state history. After initial speculation that a Mexican drug cartel could be involved, investigators eventually concluded that four Wagner family members committed the killings in the hope of gaining custody of a then-2-year-old whose father is Edward “Jake” Wagner, brother of George. Prosecutors said it took the Wagner family months of planning but only a few hours to carry out the killings of eight members of the Rhoden family.

Most Rhoden family victims, ages 14 to 44, were shot in the face or head at close range at four homes in a single night, said prosecutors. One family member and his fiancée were killed in bed, and their infant was found between them covered in blood but otherwise unharmed. Wagner, who looked down while each guilty verdict was read, had pleaded not guilty. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost praised investigators with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation. “Investigating this atrocity would have been a monumental task for just about any law enforcement agency in Ohio,” he said. It was the first conviction at trial in the case. Wagner’s brother, Jake Wagner, and his mother, Angela Wagner, pleaded guilty last year and are awaiting formal sentencing. Wagner’s father, George “Billy” Wagner III, is scheduled to stand trial next year. After the two guilty pleas, prosecutors said they wouldn’t pursue the death penalty for any Wagners.


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