Defense waiting on discovery from prosecution

By Mark Richard

About all that was accomplished in Pike County Common Pleas Court Friday afternoon was the scheduling of additional pretrial hearings and deadlines for discovery.

One of six defendants facing indictments in the mass murder of eight member of the Rhoden family in 2016, George Washington Wagner III was in court Friday for a pretrial hearing.

The first order of business brought to the table by Common Pleas Court Judge Randy Deering was that of discovery. He said defense had asked for information from the state and was asking where the progress was on discovery. Defense attorney Mark Collins informed the court he was promised to have 50 percent of the information turned over to him by the end of next week, with the remainder being completed by June 1. Collins seemed to be fine with the arrangement.

Special Prosecutor Angela Canepa said it takes some time to get all the copies transferred over for the defense, but said she should have some ready as early as tomorrow.

Collins also informed the court the defense has hired a private investigator as well as a psychologist.

Deering set the next pretrial for Wagner for May 15, at 1:30 p.m. Another pretrial was scheduled for Sept. 17 where Deering said 41 motions filed by defense would be argued at that time. He set a May 31 deadline for prosecution to file a response to these motions.

Collins asked the court about the possibility of setting up video conferencing with Wagner, who is currently being detained without bail. Deering said he was not opposed to video conferencing, noting it saves money and time.

Wagner is one of four defendants in the case facing eight counts of murder with death penalty specifications. In addition to himself, his wife, Angela, and their two sons George Wagner IV, and Edward “Jake” Wagner, are all facing the death penalty if found guilty of the April 2016 massacre. Wagner III’s mother Fredereicka Wagner, and Angela Wagner’s Mother, Rita Newcomb were in Court Thursday, where Deering set trials for them in July. They are facing obstruction and perjury charges from their grand jury testimony.

The eight members of the Rhoden family who were murdered in Western Pike County on the night of April 21 or early morning of April 22 were Hanna Rhoden, 19; Hannah Gilley, 20; Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40; Christopher Rhoden jr., 16; Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 20; Dana Rhoden, 37; Gary Rhoden, 38; and Kenneth Rhoden, 44.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, who was the state’s attorney general at the time of the murder was at the scene the following morning after the bodies were located. In a press conference, DeWine said this is the largest scale murder investigation in the state’s history.

When the six members of the Wagner family was arrested and charged with the murders last year, DeWine said in a press conference then, that a child custody battle between Hanna Rhoden and Edward Wagner could be the motive in the murders.

By Mark Richard