WAVERLY — Edward “Jake” Wagner, accused in the 2016 killings of eight members of a southern Ohio family, was escorted in shackles and under high security into the Pike County Courthouse Tuesday, the morning winds whipping his long hair across his face.
In court, the 26-year-old pleaded not guilty and Pike County Common Pleas Judge Randy D. Deering ordered him held without bond.
It took almost an hour for the judge to read the 23 charges against him, including eight counts of aggravated murder.
Four members of the Wagner family have been charged with conspiracy and aggravated murder for the killings and each could face the death penalty. They are: George “Billy” Wagner III, 47; Angela Wagner, 48; and their two sons, George Wagner IV, 27, and Jake Wagner. Their arraignments are scheduled for later this week and into the next.
Jake Wagner said nothing during the hearing except to answer the judge’s yes or no questions. He showed no emotion, even as the killings he is accused of were detailed. His attorneys had earlier filed a claim for indigency, so he is being represented by experienced death-penalty attorneys William Mooney and Gregory Meyers from the Ohio Public Defenders office.
Jake Wagner's grandmothers, Rita Newcomb, 65, and Fredericka Wagner, 76, who are accused of assisting in covering up the killings, were arraigned earlier this month. Both have since posted bail and are on house arrest.
Jake Wagner and his family members are accused of killing seven members of the Rhoden family and Hannah Gilley, 20, fiancée to Clarence "Frankie" Rhoden, 20, at four homes in April 2016. In addition to Gilley and Frankie Rhoden, Jake Wagner is accused of the murders of Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40; his older brother, Kenneth Rhoden, 44; Christopher's former wife, Dana Manley Rhoden, 38; their children, Hanna Rhoden, 19, and Chris Rhoden, Jr., 16; and a cousin Gary Rhoden, 38.
The Rhoden family — with matriarch 74-year-old Geneva Rhoden front and center — filled five rows inside the courtroom. The Manley family filled two and the Gilley family filled the rest of the space.
It appeared at least three people were there to support Wagner, including Billy's sister. No one from any of the families would comment after the arraignment.