Fredericka Wagner, 76, the family matriarch of the four persons charged directly with the infamous 2016 Rhoden family massacre in Pike County was back in the Pike County Court of Common Pleas Tuesday afternoon for what one media outlet stated was expected to be the shortest hearing in the Rhoden saga so far.
According to Fox TV-19 news, prosecutors immediately asked the case be continued to Wednesday of next week.
As of late Tuesday afternoon, the Wednesday pretrial was not listed on the Common Pleas court website. However, a spokesperson for the clerk of courts office stated it was her understanding that was indeed the date for Wagner’s next court appearance.
Charged with making false statements to an investigative grand jury looking into the Rhoden murders last year, a final pretrial for Wagner had been set for June 26. The court spokesperson stated what would be Wagner’s second pretrial of the month may or may not happen at this point. In any case, Wagner’s full-fledged jury trial still is set to begin July 29.
Wagner’s trial will be the second connected to the Rhoden murders to actually get underway. Charged with perjury and forgery, the trial of Rita Newcomb, another grandmother connected to the Wagner family, will begin July 8.
At her previous pretrial in March, Wagner’s attorney asked Court of Common Pleas Judge Randy Deering to dismiss all charges against his client. It was a motion Deering ultimately denied. Attorney James Owen argued for Wagner’s case to be dismissed, as well as for her house arrest to be removed.
Owen unsuccessfully contended the evidence about Wagner purchasing bullet proof vests linking her to the 2016 murders was incorrect in that she ordered the vests on eBay 15 days after the murders took place. He said this does not constitute perjury or obstruction of justice.
“It’s impossible. How in the world can Fredericka be guilty of perjury?” Owen asked. He went on to say his defendant telling the grand jury “she guessed” and “I thought I did” does not warrant a false statement. “
Owen asked for the dismissal of the case saying his client had been charged with a crime not committed.
“We want the court to take a fresh look,” Owen said. “It’s a matter of law.”
Assigned to the case by then Attorney General Mike DeWine, special prosecutor Angela Canepa responded by saying the documentation given to the court showing when and how the bullet proof vests were purchased was not authentic.
“We need to look at all four corners of the indictment,” Canepa said, contending there is much more to the case than Owen was putting before the court.
As already indicated, Newcomb, as well as Wagner are the grandmothers and mothers involved in the case which also includes Angela Wagner, Newcomb’s daughter; George Washington Wagner III, Fredericka Wagner’s son, as well as the sons of Angela and George, George Wagner IV, and Edward “Jake” Wagner.
Newcomb, as well as Fredericka Wagner, both face charges of perjury to a grand jury, as well as obstruction of justice. Newcomb faces an additional charge of forgery for allegedly faking a document involving child custody, which, according to DeWine, could be the motive for the murders of the Rhoden family.
Other than Fredericka Wagner and Newcomb, the remaining members of the Wagner family each face eight counts of first-degree murder with death penalty specifications attached.
According to DeWine, there was a custody battle between murder victim Hanna Rhoden, who was 19 at the time of her death, and Edward Wagner, over their daughter.
Also murdered was 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. The Rhoden family was found murdered on April 22, 2016 at four different residences in Pike County.
Daily Times Editor Mark Richard contributed to this story.
Reach Tom Corrigan at (740) 370- 0715. © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.