Prosecutors claimed that George Wagner IV and his family plotted to murder the Rhoden family over a custody dispute.
David K. Li
On Monday, a man was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for his role in the murders of eight members of an Ohio family whose lives were “cruelly taken” one night in 2016.
Pike County Court of Common Pleas Judge Randy Deering sentenced George Wagner IV to eight consecutive life sentences plus 121 years in prison.
Wagner was convicted last month on eight counts of aggravated murder and other charges related to conspiracy and attempting to conceal evidence in the 2016 Rhoden family massacre.
Prosecutors said Wagner, 31, and his family plotted to kill the Rhodens over a custody dispute involving Wagner’s brother Edward “Jake” Wagner and one of the victims, Hanna Rhoden, who shared a toddler daughter.
In addition to Hanna Rhoden, 19, the victims included her parents, Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40, and Dana Rhoden, 37; her brothers, Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 20, and Christopher Jr., 16; Clarence Rhoden’s fiancée, Hannah Gilley, 20; Christopher Rhoden Srbrother, .’s Kenneth Rhoden, 44; and a cousin, Gary Rhoden, 38.
They were all gunned down in or near their four homes in rural southern Ohio.
“No sentence that the court may impose in this case would right the wrong that was inflicted upon the victims and the families. Murder is an irreversible act. “And while time may alleviate the pain of loss, it has not, obviously, at this point — and may never,” Deering said after victims’ loved ones addressed the court.
“It will not and cannot restore to the victims’ families what was and what might have been had their loved ones’ lives not been unlawfully and cruelly taken on that night in April of 2016.”
More than a half-dozen of the victims’ loved ones took the stand in Deering’s court, detailing the years of heartache they have endured and will continue to endure in the aftermath of the slayings.
“There’s a special place in hell for you and your entire family,” Dana Rhoden’s sister Bobby Jo Manley said. “I wish you a long and unhappy life. I hope you think of my family and what you’ve done every day for the rest of your miserable life.”
Andrea Shoemaker, Gilley’s mother, said she finds solace in the fact that all of the defendants will most likely spend the rest of their lives in prison, unable to raise children.
“How sick and twisted is the Wagner family? “Thank God none of you get to raise those kids to be adults, because those poor babies would’ve turned out like you, George Wagner, and the rest of your family,” Shoemaker said.
“I beseech you, Judge Deering, to see George Wagner IV for what he truly is and to make him suffer.”
Wagner, who was not accused of shooting anyone, testified at his trial that he was unaware of his family’s lethal plans.
However, Deering believes Wagner bears significant responsibility for the murder spree, even if he did not physically pull the trigger.
“The court finds that these murders constitute the worst form of the offence,” Deering said. “They involve the invasion of the victims’ homes.”
Wagner declined the opportunity to address the court before Deering imposed the sentence.
“He was there and participated, and certainly no effort was made to prevent the crimes from occurring,” Deering said. “In fact, according to the testimony, the defendant was a willful planner and willful participant in the crimes.”
In exchange for their testimony against him, prosecutors and other members of the Wagner family agreed to drop the death penalty.
Both Wagner brothers, as well as their parents, Angela Wagner and George “Billy” Wagner III, were charged in connection with the slayings. George “Billy” Wagner III has pleaded not guilty.
Angela Wagner pleaded guilty to aiding in the planning of the killings in exchange for a 30-year prison sentence. Last year, Jake Wagner confessed to shooting five of the Rhoden family victims in exchange for the death penalty being removed as a possible punishment.