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Jury deliberating in George Wagner IV's Pike County murder trial

George Wagner IV testifying during Pike County murder trial 11-16-22.jpg
Law & Crime Channel
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George Wagner IV was convicted in the fatal shootings of eight members of the Rhoden family in 2016.

It is now up to a Pike County jury to decide the fate of George Wagner IV, who is accused in the fatal shootings of eight members of the Rhoden family in 2016.

During the trial, prosecutors alleged that a child custody dispute between Wagner’s brother, Jake, and the mother of his child, Hannah Rhoden, was the reason behind the murders.

During closing arguments that concluded Tuesday, defense attorney John Parker said his client had no reason to take part in the deaths, despite testimony from Wagner’s mother and brother claiming he was involved.

“It doesn’t make sense for one family to kill another over custody,” said Parker. "Have you ever heard of such a thing? No. No one has ever heard of such a thing. We have a whole court system set up to deal with custody issues.”

Parker attacked the credibility of Wagner’s mother, Angela. "This woman is manipulative,” said Parker. “She's got problems. I've got a pretty good idea of where her problems came from because she had a really unfortunate background. But that woman's got problems and you can't believe a word that comes out of her mouth, nor Jake's. That's unreliable evidence."

Special prosecutor D. Andrew Wilson gave the state’s rebuttal saying alleged child abuse by the Wagners was never reported to authorities because it was not true.

“You know why the Wagner's never called children's services? You know why the Wagners never took her to the doctor to look into these sex abuse claims? You know why they never called children's services? Because it wasn't true," said Wilson.

Wagner's mother and brother have pleaded guilty to several charges in the case.

Defense attorney John Parker stated his client did not participate in the murders with his family members.

"Do you hear anything about a family meeting to discuss killing these people? No,” said Parker.

In rebuttal, the prosecution stressed that even without pulling the trigger, Wagner knew what happened and that the jury should find him guilty.

"If you do any one of those things on that list, well it shows that you have a purpose to aid and abet,” said Wilson. “It shows that you've accepted that group intent, the collective intent."

Debbie Holmes began her career in broadcasting in Columbus after graduating from The Ohio State University. She left the Buckeye state to pursue a career in television news and worked as a reporter and anchor in Moline, Illinois and Memphis, Tennessee.