Pike County murders: Ohio AG touts ‘laser’ focus on Alaska family

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

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Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

Investigators likely have a lead in the Pike County murders case, but need more information before naming suspects or making an arrest, according to experts interviewed by the Dayton Daily News.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine hasn’t named suspects in the 2016 deaths of eight people yet but has asked the public to focus attention on four members of the Wagner family.

“We’re not really labeling them,” DeWine said in an interview with this newsroom. “But we are saying we want to have the public focus on these four individuals.”

MORE: Pike County investigators ask: Who are the Wagners?

The four are Edward “Jake” Wagner, 24, George Wagner IV, 25, George “Billy Wagner III, 46, and Angela Wagner, 45. All are uncharged and believed to be in Alaska.

"I would say that we are focused on them at this point like a laser," DeWine told KTVA, WHIO's Anchorage affiliate.

Experts said DeWine’s language likely means investigators have a lead in the case, but need more information before making arrests or naming suspects.

“Obviously, they have a lead from somewhere,” said Timothy Shaw, a former FBI special agent. “What you do is you get tips,” but then investigators must corroborate them.

MORE: Searches prompt more questions in Pike County case

Investigators last month executed search warrants on Ohio property formerly owned by George Wagner IV and Jake Wagner, who is the father of a child with Hannah Rhoden, who died with seven others in the massacre.

“It tells me they had probably cause to investigate the property,” Shaw said of the searches. “They’ve had a lot of evidence they’ve had to sort through. They may be at a point where they need a break in the case.”

Wagner family “interactions, conversations, dealings, or transactions … which could be personal, business, or otherwise” are of interest to investigators, with specific emphasis on “vehicles, firearms, and ammunition.”

The Wagners — like many in Kenai, Alaska — are armed, said neighbor Brad Conklin.

MORE: Alaska, Ohio police ‘inundated’ with Pike County murders tips

Conklin talked with the family Monday before DeWine’s tip request. He gave them a warning about leaving toys out in the open, given the area’s tendency for bear sightings.

“I stopped in to say that we have bear around here so keep a gun handy, and they said all they have was a little shotgun,” Conklin told KTVA. “They seem like a normal family trying to make a living.”

Because they’re not wanted, the family isn’t on the run.

That’s something the Anchorage Police Department — flooded with calls after DeWine’s request — was direct about.

“The individuals in question are not wanted,” the department posted on Facebook. “There are no warrants for their arrest, and no law enforcement agency needs to speak to them at this time.”

“… as of now, they have as much right to be here as anyone.”

MORE: Alaska pastor says Ohio family attended church Sunday

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