Four family members arrested in 2016 murders of 8 people in Ohio

Posted at 8:23 PM, Nov 13, 2018

PIKE COUNTY, Ohio -- Four family members have been arrested in the 2016 murders of eight people in a rural community of southern Ohio, according to WJW.

George "Billy" Wagner III, 47; Angela Wagner, 48; George Wagner IV, 27; and Edward "Jake" Wagner, 26, were arrested Tuesday and "are charged with planning and carrying out" the killings of eight members of the Rhoden family, Ohio State Attorney General Mike DeWine's office said in a news release.

The Wagners are from South Webster, about a 30-mile drive southeast of Piketon, the community in and around where the killings happened. Although the Wagners had since moved to Alaska, authorities said they arrested three in Ohio and one, "Billy" Wagner, in Lexington, Kentucky.

Seven adults and a teenage boy from the Rhoden family were found shot to death on April 22, 2016.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine spoke about the arrests during a news conference Tuesday evening. He gave few details about the motive, saying only that it was believed to be linked to the custody of a child, according to the Associated Press. He called the case bizarre, adding that it centered around "obsession with the custody and control of children."

Edward "Jake" Wagner and one of the victims, his former girlfriend Hannah Rhoden, 19, shared custody of their daughter, authorities said.

The eight victims -- who ranged in age from 16 to 44 -- were found shot to death at four crime scenes.

DeWine said they now believe the suspects spent months studying their victims' schedules and the physical layouts of the Rhoden family homes.

Authorities in the past suspected multiple attackers who were familiar with the victims' homes and the surrounding area about 70 miles south of Columbus.

Redacted autopsy reports show most victims were shot multiple times.

DeWine's office has said one of the victims, Christopher Rhoden Sr., had "a large-scale marijuana growing operation," leading some to speculate the killings were drug-related or even connected to Mexican drug cartels. Marijuana grow operations are not uncommon in that part of the state, however, authorities said.

Those who died included Kenneth Rhoden, 44; his brother Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40; and Christopher's ex-wife Dana Rhoden, 37. Also killed were three of the Rhodens' children, Clarence "Frankie" Rhoden, 20, Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16, and Hanna May Rhoden, 19. Other victims were Hannah Gilley, 20, who was engaged to Clarence "Frankie" Rhoden, and Gary Rhoden, 38, a cousin.

Authorities said the arrests were the culmination of more than 130 interviews and 550 tips in a case that at least 20 law enforcement agencies worked on.

Piketon is a town of about 2,000 residents, 90 miles east of Cincinnati.

(Photo Credit: Ohio AG)

CNN contributed to this report.