Pike County murders: Jury seated for first trial in case

WAVERLY, Pike County — After a week-long selection process, a jury has officially been seated in the first trial in the Pike County murders case six years after eight members of the Rhoden family were killed.

The jury that will decide the fate of George Wagner IV is comprised of nine women and three men. The court still has to choose six alternate jurors.

Jurors are expected to tour relevant sites in the case later this week and opening arguments are scheduled to begin after Labor Day.

Credit: WBNS-TV

Credit: WBNS-TV

George Wagner IV faces trial for the murder of eight members of the Rhoden family who were shot to death at point-blank range while sleeping in their Pike County homes. George faces dozens of charges, with the possibility of the death penalty.

A jury pool of 60 people is being narrowed down to 12, plus alternates at the Pike County Common Pleas courthouse in Waverly. The trial is expected to last up to six to eight weeks, with opening statements scheduled to begin on Tuesday, September 6.

On Monday, Wagner’s attorneys argued the current jury panel from which attorneys hope to seat a jury is unfair to Wagner because it was heavily skewed toward women — claiming there were 51 women and nine men to choose from.

They also argued at least six jurors who said they had “scruples” about the death penalty had been removed from the panel, claiming “this jury will be more likely to convict since these jurors have been excluded.”

Attorneys filed motions to strike the panel from which jurors will be selected, arguing that no working person could afford to miss six to eight weeks of work for the $10 a day provided to jurors.

Judge Randy Deering ultimately denied those motions.

Potential jurors heard about a possible witness list as well: More than 250 people could be called as witnesses in this case, including dozens of state Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents and members of two county dive teams. Not all people on the list will be called during the course of the trial.

George is the first of the Wagner family members charged in the eight murders to face trial. His brother, Edward “Jake” Wagner, is believed to be at the center of the motive for the murder; He and one of the victims, Hanna Rhoden, had a child together over which there were vicious custody disputes. Jake took a plea deal in April 2021.

Also charged in the murders were George’s parents, Angela and George “Billy” Wagner. Angela took a plea deal in September 2021. Billy has maintained a plea of not guilty, though a trial date has not yet been set for him.

The victims of the Pike County murders were 40-year-old Christopher Rhoden Sr., 37-year-old Dana Rhoden, 20-year-old Hannah Gilley, 16-year-old Christopher Rhoden Jr., 20-year-old Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 37-year-old Gary Rhoden, 19-year-old Hanna Rhoden, and 44-year-old Kenneth Rhoden.

WCPO is a content partner of Cox First Media.

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