Ohio shooter who killed five family members claims he ‘had no choice

 Ohio shooter who killed five family members claims he ‘had no choice


An Ohio man convicted of killing five of eight family members in a 2016 massacre testified Monday that he had no choice but to kill his child’s mother.

Last year, Jake Wagner pleaded guilty to shooting the five victims in an attack that investigators said was the result of a custody dispute between two families.

Jake Wagner agreed to testify against his older brother, George Wagner IV, as part of his plea deal in exchange for being spared the death penalty.

If convicted in the slayings of the Rhoden family near Piketon, George Wagner IV, whose trial is now in its eighth week in Pike County court, faces the death penalty. George Wagner is the first person to stand trial in connection with the killings.

Angela Wagner, Jake and George’s mother, has also pleaded guilty to her role in the slayings and is expected to testify. George “Billy” Wagner III, Jake and George’s father, has pleaded not guilty. He will most likely not stand trial until next year. The four Wagner family members were not apprehended until more than two years after the slayings.

Although special prosecutor Angela Canepa has not accused George Wagner, 31, of shooting anyone in April 2016, she has stated that he was involved in the planning, execution, and cover-up of “one of the most heinous crimes in Ohio history.”

The two families had been close for years, but Canepa described the Wagners as obsessed with gaining custody of Jake Wagner’s child with Hanna.

The Wagner family had pressed Hanna Rhoden to sign away custody of the 3-year-old girl, but Hanna vowed four months before the massacre in a Facebook message that “they will have to kill me first,” Canepa said.

Jake Wagner, who said he was afraid his daughter would be abused, testified Monday that Hanna Rhoden’s remark was the “tipping point” for him to decide Hanna, 19, had to die.

Canepa previously stated that George Wagner was with his brother and father when they drove to three separate locations where all eight victims were killed, went inside with the pair, and helped his brother in moving two of the bodies.

Jake Wagner testified on Monday that this was the tipping point in his decision to kill Hanna, who was 19 at the time of her death. He claimed Hanna’s brothers Frankie and Chris Rhoden, as well as their father, Chris Rhoden Sr., were also targeted. Jake Wagner testified that the other four victims were killed because they could have been witnesses.

Jake Wagner also testified that when George Wagner failed to fire on Chris Rhoden Sr., Jake Wagner shot Rhoden himself.

According to defense attorney Richard Nash, George Wagner is not like the rest of his family and had nothing to do with the murders.

Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40; his ex-wife, Dana Rhoden, 37; their three children, Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 16, Christopher Jr., and Hanna; Clarence Rhoden’s fiancee, Hannah Gilley, 20; Christopher Rhoden Sr.’s brother Kenneth Rhoden, 44; and a cousin, Gary Rhoden, 38, were all killed.

Related post