Pike Co. murder trial Week 2: No DNA of man on trial found at scene, investigators say

WAVERLY, Ohio — Bureau of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Shane Hanshaw was back on the stand Monday in the weeks-long murder trial of George Wagner IV, who is charged with killing eight members of the Rhoden family in Pike County.

George — 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.” The family’s bodies were found on April 22, 2016. He faces eight charges of aggravated murder, along with other charges associated with tampering with evidence, conspiracy and forgery.

Hanshaw was questioned by the prosecution all day Friday and again for hours on Monday, which rested just before the lunch hour. His testimony picked back up with questioning by the defense team.

Video note: Some witnesses may opt out of their testimony being live online.

Hanshaw had previously testified about ballistics — jackets, bullets and more — he found at Chris Rhoden Sr.’s home in April 2016 when investigators were there following the discovery of the murder scenes. Rhoden was one of the eight killed.

He also talked about blood evidence and DNA discovered in bloody shoe prints left at the home.

Hanshaw said he found a notebook on top of a speaker that included names and phone numbers, and he felt it was important to the investigation. The final entry in the notebook simply read “Billy - 4/21/2016,” he said. Prosecutors believe the notation is related to a fake drug deal Billy Wagner was planning to make with Rhoden as part of an ambush that night. Billy is George Wagner’s father, who was considered friends with Rhoden.

Hanshaw described to the prosecution and courtroom other things found in Rhoden’s home, including broken eyeglasses and a Jets hat, which had a bullet hole in the back and part of a projectile that was lodged in the bill that fell out.

Both sides stipulated as fact the blood on the hat contained DNA of Gary Rhoden, who was also killed in the massacre.

Hanshaw also showed phones that are considered evidence that were found on a table in Chris Rhoden Sr.’s trailer.

The jury on Monday was also shown photos of the bedroom where Chris Sr. and Gary’s bodies were found. Family members in the courtroom were visibly affected, some crying, when the photos were shown.

Some of the close-up photos were graphic, showing what had happened to the murder victims prior to their bodies being moved by the coroner.

Hanshaw said BCI used forensic vacuums to collect evidence at the scene and did blind DNA swabs throughout the home from door handles and light switches.

Outbuildings on the Rhoden property were also investigated, and some had video cameras mounted. Some buildings were used for marijuana grow operations, investigators had said previously. Loose cords found in one building were swabbed for DNA in the event a suspect may have removed equipment to which they were attached, Hanshaw testified Monday.

But both parties in court stipulated and agreed that no DNA evidence collected at 4077 Union Hill Road, Chris Rhoden Sr.’s property, was linked to any of the Wagner family members charged in the murders. That includes George, Billy, Jake and Angela Wagner.

The bodies of Chris Sr. and Gary were placed in body bags and removed around 3 a.m. April 22, Hanshaw testified. The scene was clear by 3:39 a.m.

During questioning by the defense, photos of the marijuana plants inside Chris Rhoden Sr.’s garage were shown because they include the broken door handle, blood on a door and a security camera outside.

Hanshaw left the stand just after 2 p.m. Monday, when another BCI agent, Todd Fortner, took the stand.

Fortner, who operates a laser scanner used for investigating, was assigned to 4199 Union Hill Road, where Frankie Rhoden and Hannah Hazel Gilley lived in a trailer. He also helped at the location where the bodies of Chris Rhoden Sr. and Gary were found.

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


OTHER DETAILS

- George Wagner IV is facing multiple charges in the murders of eight members of the Rhoden family of Pike County. His trial began Sept. 12 and is expected to last anywhere from 4-6 weeks.

- 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.

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