Rhoden family members describe bloody crime scene at Wagner trial
WAVERLY, Ohio (WCMH) – In Pike County, the first witnesses in the George Wagner IV murder trial took the stand on Tuesday, one of whom described the scene he found when he is returned to his murdered sister.
The jury heard testimony from a handful of witnesses, mostly relatives of the Rhoden family, as testimony began in the largest investigative murder case in Ohio history.
Most of these witnesses chose not to appear on camera, but recounted what they saw and heard on that tragic day six years ago.
On the first day of testimony in the Pike County Massacre trial, the jury heard from those closest to the Rhoden family.
“There is blood all over the house! Bobby Jo Manley, Dhana Rhoden’s younger sister, said in one of the April 22, 2016 911 calls. “My brother-in-law is in the bedroom, and it looks like someone beat him to death!”
Manley went to the family trailer, where she discovered her brother-in-law, Chris Rhoden Jr., dead.
Christopher Rhoden Sr., Dana Rhoden, Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, Christopher Rhoden Jr., Hanna Rhoden, Hannah Gilley, Gary Rhoden and Kenneth Rhoden were all found dead on the morning of April 22, 2016. The Pike County Sheriff’s Office said three young children, including a baby, were found safe and sound.
Later Tuesday, James Manley, brother of Dhana Rhoden, spoke.
“Blood everywhere,” Manley testified. “It was on the body, on the bed, on the walls.”
Manley said that upon arriving at another family trailer, he found one of Rhoden’s children covered in blood, but unharmed.
“I walk up to the yard and see Frankie’s baby covered in blood,” he said.
Manley said after that he entered the trailer and found both parents of the baby dead. He then called his wife shortly after.
“That Frankie and Hanna Hazel were dead,” Manley said on that call.
Authorities say the murders stem from a custody dispute over a child Jake Wagner had with Hannah Rhoden.
The prosecution alleged that the Wagners spent months planning the massacre in retaliation for Hannah Rhoden’s refusal to grant custody of the child.
The defense, however, argued that George Wagner IV was unaware of his family’s motives and took no part in their actions.
Wagner’s younger brother Jake and his mother Angela have reached plea deals with prosecutors to avoid the death penalty and are expected to testify against him. Jake and George’s father, Billy Wagner, is still awaiting trial.
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