The Ohio Attorney General’s Office decided to withdraw from prosecuting the Rhoden family murder case. This move is one of many bizarre twists in the four years since eight members of the same Pike County family were murdered back in April of 2016. Let’s look at the twisted history of the case and check out today’s unbelievable developments.
On April 22, 2016, eight members of the Rhoden family were found murdered.
- Frankie Rhoden – 20
- Frankie’s fiance Hannah Gilley -22
- Hanna Rhoden -19
- Christopher Rhoden, Jr – 16
- Christopher Rhoden, Sr – 40
- Kenneth Rhoden – 44
- Gary Rhoden – 38
- Dana Rhoden – 37
All were shot in the head. Prosecutors allege that the murders were the result of a custody dispute between Hanna Rhoden and Edward Jacob Wagner. Wagner along with his brother George Wagner IV and his parents George Wagner III and Angela Wagner were charged with the murders.
Prosecution of the case has been hampered by scandals in the Pike County Sheriff’s Office, issues with evidence, and investigation, and a problem with the state’s lead prosecutor in the case. Among the issues:
- Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader was indicted and suspended on corruption charges unrelated to the case.
- Lead investigator Mike Trout was demoted for his behavior during the Rhoden investigation.
- The trailer when evidence was stored in the case was broken into.
- The state’s lead prosecutor Angela Canepa abruptly quit the case last month with no explanation.
AG Wants Out
The latest twist took place in a Pike County Courtroom on Monday. At a pretrial hearing for Edward Jacob Wagner that had been postponed from March, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office made a motion to withdraw from the prosecution. The reason? Pike County Prosecutor Rob Junk wanted the judge to Angela Canepa as a special prosecutor working for his office. The Ohio Attorney General’s Office will continue to work in cooperation with the Pike County Prosecutor but they will not provide prosecutors.
In their motion to quit the case, the AG’s office said, “BCI will continue to assist Prosecutor Junk, including the services of a victim advocate for the family members of the victims, throughout the prosecution of this case.”
It was hard to tell if anyone was surprised about this development. Everyone in the courtroom was wearing masks and it was sometimes hard to hear them much less see any emotion.
According to Prosecutor Junk, the family of the victims very much wanted Ms. Canepa to stay with the case and follow it through to the end. Edward Wagner’s attorney did not object to the AG’s motion and the judge granted it. However, he said, “We have four cases. In the other three cases, I need to address it with their defense attorneys.”
Hurry Up And Wait
Don’t expect the trial to begin any time soon. The parties will be back in court in late August to make sure that the defense has received all of the evidence the prosecution plans to present against them. Assuming everyone is satisfied with the sharing of evidence, parties will be back in court on September 21 and 22 for pretrial motions.
The judge requested that the defense have any additional motions filed a couple of weeks before that date. “Can we at least take a shot at having those filed 2 weeks before the 21st of September?” The defense attorney said he would try.
When asked if he was satisfied with his defense, Edward ‘Jake’ Wagner said he “Couldn’t be more satisfied.” While Wagner’s face was not visible due to a mask, his demeanor in court seemed unconcerned.