Lead Pike County deaths investigator says many tips came in, one was even connected to death of Prince

WAVERLY —The Bureau of Criminal Investigation special agent who led the investigation into the murders of the Rhoden family in Pike County in 2016 took the the stand Wednesday in the trial of suspect George Wagner IV.

Ryan Scheiderer said he was working in his yard the morning of April 22, 2016, when he got called in. He arrived at the Piketon Police Department briefing area around 11:30 a.m. and called it “a very chaotic day.”

“This was a big incident,” he said. “It’s a lot, even for BCI.”

Wagner — along with his mother Angela, father George “Billy” Wagner and brother Edward “Jake” Wagner — is accused of shooting and killing the Rhoden family members “execution-style.” He faces eight charges of aggravated murder, along with other charges associated with tampering with evidence, conspiracy and forgery.

Found dead that day were 40-year-old Christopher Rhoden Sr., 37-year-old Dana Rhoden, 20-year-old Hannah “Hazel” Gilley, 16-year-old Christopher Rhoden Jr., 20-year-old Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 37-year-old Gary Rhoden, 19-year-old Hanna May Rhoden, and 44-year-old Kenneth Rhoden.

Scheiderer, who became the case’s lead agent in 2017, testified that he first responded to 2077 Union Hill Road, the first crime scene — Chris Rhoden Sr.’s property. He said agents had to wait on the road outside of the property while a warrant was obtained, and that took awhile.

He left the scene to go to the Pike County Sheriff’s Office to interview family members, James and Bobby Jo Manley, Billy Morgan and Luke Rhoden. The sheriff’s office asked BCI to handle the case, and it assigned two majors to the BCI investigative team to provide deputy support if needed.

Eventually, Shiederer testified, investigators had to regroup at the Piketon PD because tips and information was coming in “so fast, it overwhelms you.”

He said he knew they would be in “for the long haul” with the case. BCI set up a tip system to track and monitor what was reported. As tips came in, they were assigned to agents who would follow up and report back.

Schiederer described “victimology” as he testified — a process in which he needed to get a sense of who the eight victims were. He went to their social media pages to preserve records. He said cell tower data dumps were challenging because everyone in the Pike County area is on the same towers.

Most of the DNA found at the crime scenes, Schiederer told the courtroom, belonged to the victims, or was saturated, meaning there was too much to get a match.

Other important details Scheiderer shared in the courtroom Wednesday:

- The BCI agents did “old school police work” of knocking on neighbor doors and asking for security video.

- Problems arose because Union Hill Road was closed and people left out of fear and inconvenience that they couldn’t get in and out.

- Tips came in from sources including psychics, inmates, people out of state and they even had a tip connected to the death of Prince.

- BCI obtained a list of all people who has just moved to the area and said one of the deceased, Dana Rhoden, actually lived in nearby Scioto County, close to a sign that says “Welcome to Pike County.”

- Surveillance video from area stores shows Dana Rhoden stopping at a mart on her way home from her double shift late that night to get milk. There also is footage of Frankie Rhoden going to a store for milk that night.

- One local resident told investigators he was out of town at the time of the murders, but that he had a security camera on, and when he returned he discovered it was missing.

George Wagner IV’s trial continues Thursday. it is expected to last a couple more weeks.

WCPO’s Evan Millward and Felicia Jordan contributed to this report.

About the Author