Six years ago, in 2016, eight members of a family were killed by another family in a reported bitterly fought custody battle in Pike County. The trial began on Monday and is expected to last for six to eight weeks. The first suspect on trial is 30-year old George Wagner IV. He is one among the four members of the Wagner family who have been charged with multiple counts of aggravated murder as they killed eight members of the Rhoden family, when they were sleeping. They were shot execution style.
Special prosecutor Angela Canepa apologized to the jury for the long process as the trial had been delayed by a week. A person crucial to the case had been ill. She wrapped up her opening statements at just after 2.30 p.m., after speaking to the jury for several hours.
She laid down the groundwork of the involvement of George Wagner IV as they had obtained wiretaps of him speaking to his brother Jake and how they were in trouble. The tappings indicate that he had told his brother that he should have destroyed his laptop and should have also thrown away his phone.
Investigators also detailed purchases made by the family that included masks and ammunition as well as a phone jammer.
After a 15-minute break, Defense Attorney Richard Nash delivered his opening statement. He said that that his client was different from the rest of the family. He also said that George Wagner IV had no involvement in the murders. He also said that his client had no motive.
Nash also told the jury that investigators spoke to his client only once. They needed George Wagner IV to be out of his vehicle so they could put a bug on it. He also called his client an “outsider” in his family.
The trial is expected to be dramatic as the motive is said to be a custody battle between Hanna Rhoden, who had a child Sophia with Jake Wagner. He is the brother of George Rhoden IV. Jake has entered a plea deal and will have to testify at the trial.
Defense attorneys have asked for certain evidence to be disallowed during George Wagner IV’s trial. They have repeatedly said that audio recording that had been created by investigators during several days of surveillance of the Wagner family should not be allowed as evidence.
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