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Pike County Still Shaken By Rhoden Family Murders

Nick Evans

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine on Tuesday announced the arrests of six people in connection with the 2016 murders of eight members of the Rhoden family. In Piketon, residents are relieved but still sorting through their own feelings around the tragedy.

At the Riverside Restaurant on Piketon’s north side, the lunch rush is bustling. Diners are working, eating burgers or mopping up the last bit of gravy with a piece of bread.

Despite state and county officials charging four people with the Rhoden family killings, which have gone unsolved for two and a half years, the events of April 22, 2016, still weigh heavily on the town.

Vaughn Campbell was still in high school when the murders happened—a friend was close with one of the victims. He says the arrests offer some small sense of relief.

“At the same time,” he says, “it’s a sign that times are changing that this kind of thing could just happen out of nowhere and we won’t know until it happens any other time.”

On that April morning, seven adults and a teenage boy were found shot to death at four homes near Piketon. All but one of the victims were shot multiple times in the head; three young children were found spared.

George Wagner III, Angela Wagner, George Wagner IV, and Edward "Jake" Wagner face charges of aggravated murder in the case, and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. The family and grandmothers on both sides also face charges related to covering up the killings.

Campbell hopes the remaining Rhoden family members will get some closure. But after so long with the case hanging over the town, Campbell says it’s a strange feeling to have suspects in custody.

“It’s odd to think that maybe after almost two years, almost three years actually, that it’s actually been, it’s almost been solved," Campbell says. "Hopefully.”

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.