WAVERLY, Ohio — George “Billy” Wagner III, likely won’t see trial until at least early 2024, according to newly-appointed Judge Robert Alan Corbin.
Billy — along with his wife, Angela and his two sons, Jake and George — is accused of shooting and killing eight members of the Rhoden and Gilley families “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.
He’s been imprisoned since his family’s arrest in November of 2018.
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.
During a Wednesday afternoon hearing, Corbin said he’d spoken with Billy’s defense attorneys and determined that was likely the earliest estimate; this year, Corbin said, would be for motions hearings in preparation of the trial.
One of the most urgent motions facing Corbin is a request by Billy’s defense attorneys for a change of venue for the trial. Corbin acknowledged Wednesday that a date for that hearing would need to be set as soon as they could, though no official date was agreed on in the court room.
Another motion up for consideration is tied to certain audio files made of Billy during the course of the investigation; several wiretapped conversations made of the family were played during George’s trial, including a lengthy interview Billy gave law enforcement in a vehicle in a parking lot after the homicides.
The retired Brown County common pleas judge was assigned the Pike County murder cases by the Ohio State Supreme Court following the retirement of Judge Randy Deering, who presided over the trial of Billy’s son, George Wagner IV, in the fall of 2022.
George faced the same charges — despite evidence and testimony that he’d never pulled a trigger the night of the homicides — and a jury found him guilty of all of them on November 30, 2022. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, though the death penalty specifications he’d faced were dropped.
Billy still faces the death penalty. His wife, Angela and son, Jake have both entered plea bargains with the prosecution that would lift those specifications in exchange for their testimony in trial; the same deal was struck for George’s trial.