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Rhoden Family Member Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit Over Pike County Murders

Edward "Jake" Wagner is arraigned at the Pike County Courthouse on Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018 in Waverly, Ohio.
Robert McGraw
Associated Press
Edward "Jake" Wagner is arraigned at the Pike County Courthouse on Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018 in Waverly, Ohio.

A man who lost several relatives in a Pike County mass murder four years ago has filed a wrongful death lawsuit to prevent any of the suspects from benefiting financially from the killings.

In 2018, the Pike County Prosecutor charged husband George Wagner III, wife Angela Wagner, and sons George Wagner IV and Edward "Jake" Wagner with planning and murdering eight members of the Rhoden family on the morning of April 22, 2016.

Tony Rhoden Sr. is seeking economic and punitive damages against all four, who are currently awaiting trial. He says no one awaiting trial should benefit financially from the killings, and that any money from the case's publicity should go to the victims' surviving family.

Rhoden Sr. is the brother of Gary Rhoden and Christopher Rhoden, both of whom were killed along with Christopher Rhoden's three children, his ex-wife and two others. According to his lawyers, Rhoden Sr. is taking this step pre-emptively. 

Autopsy reports showed all but one of the victims were shot multiple times in the head, and some also showed bruising. Some of the victims were killed while they slept. Two babies and a young child were left unharmed.

Edward “Jake” Wagner, one of the suspects, had a three-year-old daughter with Hanna Rhoden, one of the victims, at the time of her murder. Investigators say a custody dispute over their daughter, who was not present during the attacks, may have been a motive.

A fifth and sixth suspect were charged for trying to cover up the killings. While one pleaded guilty to an obstruction charge in 2019, charges against the other were dropped. Rhoden Sr. is seeking damages against them as well.

Adora Namigadde was a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU News in February 2017. A Michigan native, she graduated from Wayne State University with a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in French.