Social media explodes, but no information in Rhoden murder case

By Tom Corrigan - [email protected]

Once again, the latest “news” regarding the infamous Rhoden family murders in 2016 appears to be a false alarm.

Despite an explosion of social media reports Thursday and Friday, a spokesperson for the Ohio Attorney General’s office Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Dan Tierney told the Daily Times there have been no arrests made in connection with the grisly two-year-old murders.

The latest round of rumors appears to have been sparked by a local Facebook news feed. That feed was referenced in part of a Facebook page stateing in part “2 arrested in connection with the Rhoden family murders … The 2 arrested were Billy Wagner Sr. and Jake Wagner.”

At the time this story was written, the post had attracted 35 comments and been shared 750 times.

The page contains no personal information.

In comments on his own post, he admits the story had not surfaced on any radio or TV news outlet, but he did reference the Facebook news page mentioned earlier which apparently first posted news about arrests in connection with the long unsolved murders. His initial post appeared sometime late Thursday.

Eight members of the Rhoden clan were found shot to death in mobile homes in Pike County on April 22, 2016. According to media reports, Edward Wagner, 24, fathered a child with one of the female victims. Wagner’s family apparently underwent some scrutiny by the Attorney General’s Office, which has been involved with the Rhoden murders since the beginning of the investigation. However, the Wagners never formally were named as suspects in the case, again despite social media reports claiming otherwise.

Part of the latest round of rumors started because of an even earlier rumor about a heavy police presence Thursday at the Wagner’s family farm in Pike County. On Friday, BCI’s Tierney said he could not comment on any law enforcement activity at the farm, not even to confirm or deny it took place.

Asked if some further information on the alleged police activity might be forthcoming in the future, Tierney again said he could not comment.

Rumors about the Rhoden murders made the news as recently as June, also sparked by social media and, in this instance, some news outlets, not to include the Daily Times. The June rumor held there was some connection between a body found in Pike County June 11 and the 2016 deaths. The body found in June was that of Violet Rhoden Taylor, 37, who, according to various news reports, was a relative of the murdered Rhoden family.

At the time, BCI public information officer Jill Del Greco said, at the request of the Pike County Sheriff’s Office, BCI was investigating the scene where Taylor’s body was discovered. Del Greco said BCI investigators were treating Taylor’s death as “questioned,” meaning the cause of death had not been confirmed and may or may not have involved foul play.

Taylor’s body was found on Lapperell Road near Stewart Hollow Road. Del Greco said identification of the body came from the Pike County Coroner’s Office.

Del Greco was out of the office Friday. Tierney had not responded to a request for an update on any investigation into Taylor’s death by the deadline for this issue.

In 2016, just over a week after the Rhoden murders, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine spoke with the Daily Times.

“We have eight victims – eight human beings whose lives have been snuffed out,” DeWine said. “As I have said before, I anticipate a lengthy investigation. The nature of a case where a body was found, many times means that it is going to take a while. We have eight bodies. You have eight times the many different scenarios and possibilities. So, I look for a lengthy investigation.”

DeWine’s comments about a lengthy investigation obviously have turned out to be true. As hinted at above, theories about what happened abound on the Internet, with alleged motives ranging from some sort of family dispute to involvement of a Mexican drug gang.

Even just a little over a week after the murders, DeWine and Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader reported more than 100 items of evidence were sent to the BCI crime laboratory for DNA, ballistics, latent prints and trace analysis. BCI and Pike County Sheriff investigators had conducted 128 witness interviews and witness contacts as part of the ongoing investigation.

As of June, authorities were continuing to request those with information call (855) BCI-OHIO (224-6446) or (740) 947-2111.

By Tom Corrigan

[email protected]