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In April 2016, eight members of the same family were shot dead in a rural community outside Piketon, Ohio. The massacre was triggered by a custody dispute for a child.
A man changed his guilty plea five years after he was involved in the massacre of his girlfriend and seven members of his family after rowing for custody of their baby.
Jake Wagner, 28, pleaded guilty to 23 counts in a plea deal, meaning he won’t face the death penalty if he provides evidence against his parents and brother, who are expected to be tried by the end of the year.
On Thursday, April 22, Wagner – who faced eight counts of aggravated murder and 15 other counts – told Judge Randy Deering, “I am guilty, Your Honor.”
On 22 April 2016, Christopher Rhoden, 40, and his son Christopher, 16, were shot dead along with Clarence Rhoden, 20, Dana Rhoden, 37, Gary Rhoden, 38, Hanna Rhoden, 19, Hannah Gilley, 20, and Kenneth Rhoden, 44.
Wagner was the ex-boyfriend of Hanna Rhoden and the father of her three-year-old daughter.
His father George “Billy” Wagner III, 49, wife of George Angela Wagner, 50, and his brother George Wagner IV, 29, all deny the murder.
Angela Wagner’s mother, Rita Newcomb, 67, and Billy Wagner’s mother, Fredericka Wagner, 78, deny perjury and obstruct justice for alleged misleading investigators.
The police investigation into the shooting began with suspicion that the killings were linked to the drug dealing in prescription drugs, in which the Rhoden family were known to be involved.
But it turned out that the murders simply followed a feud after Jake and Hannah bitterly broke up.
– Mike Schell (@ Fox19_Mike) April 22, 2021
The court heard Jake Wagner tried to get Hanna Rhoden to accept shared custody of their daughter, but she refused.
Jake Wagner started dating Hanna Rhoden when she was 13 and got pregnant when she was 15.
The couple’s son, now eight years old, is believed to be placed in the care of relatives.
Wagner’s lawyer, Gregory Meyers, said: “He knows he will die in prison with no judicial release. As horrifying as it is to everyone, he is sorry how much it could be.”