COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – An Ohio woman pleaded guilty Friday to planning the murder of eight family members of her granddaughter.
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Angela Wagner, 50, pleaded guilty to murder conspiracy, burglary, evidence manipulation and other charges in Pike County, southern Ohio.
In return for the plea, the prosecution dropped the murder charges against her and recommended that she serve a 30-year prison sentence. Their consent to testify against other remaining defendants was also part of the deal, they said.
FILE – These undated file images, released by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, show George “Billy” Wagner III and Angela Wagner in the top row from left and George Wagner IV and Edward “Jake” Wagner in the bottom row from left. The four members of the Wagner family were charged in 2016 in the murder of eight members of the Rhoden family in rural Ohio. Tony Rhoden Sr., a man who lost several relatives in the mass murders, has filed an unjustified death lawsuit against the four suspects in the murders. (Ohio Attorney General via AP, file)
She did not provide any information during the hearing.
Her husband and two adult sons were also charged with the 2016 murder of seven adults and a teenager from the Rhoden family. Wagner’s plea comes nearly five months after her son Edward “Jake” Wagner pleaded guilty to murder and other charges and agreed to testify against the other three in order to avoid all four possible death sentences.
George “Billy” Wagner III and George Wagner IV have pleaded not guilty.
The fatal shots at three caravans and one camper near Piketon in April 2016 frightened residents in rural Ohio and opened one of the largest criminal investigations in the state that resulted in the arrest of the Wagners more than two years later.
The Wagners spent months planning the murders, targeting some of the victims, but “some were unfortunately killed because they happened to be there,” said Special Prosecutor Angela Canepa.
Most of the victims were repeatedly shot in the head and some were bruised. Three small children at the scene were unharmed.
The victims were 40 year old Christopher Rhoden Sr .; his ex-wife, 37-year-old Dana Rhoden; their three children, Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 20, Christopher Jr., 16, and Hanna, 19; Clarence Rhoden’s fiancée, 20-year-old Hannah Gilley; Christopher Rhoden Sr.’s brother, 44 year old Kenneth Rhoden; and one cousin, 38 year old Gary Rhoden.
Prosecutors say the Wagner family planned the murders for months, motivated by a dispute over custody of the daughter Jake Wagner had with Hanna Rhoden.
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The Wagners used guns with self-made silencers that enabled them to kill their victims in their sleep, according to prosecutors.
Fully aware of the plans, Angela Wagner purchased several items that were used to carry out the murders, including “phone jammers” that prevented victims from calling for help, Canepa said.
She also falsified detention documents and monitored some of the victims’ social media accounts prior to the killings, Canepa said. Wagner reached out to prosecutors about a deal and gave them new information after their son pleaded guilty, Canepa said.
Angela Wagner puts on her reading glasses as she pursues the 22 counts of her indictment in front of the Pike County Courthouse during her indictment on Thursday, November 29, 2018 in Waverly, Ohio. Wagner, her husband and their sons are charged with the 2016 shootings of the Rhoden family. (Robert McGraw / The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP, Pool)
Jake Wagner pleaded guilty to the fifth anniversary of the murders in April and said in court that he was “deeply and very sorry”. He was not convicted, but his lawyer said he understood that he would spend his life in prison.
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Christopher Rhoden Sr.’s brother, Tony Rhoden Sr., said the family were grateful for the first request as “a show of justice.”
He also sued the Wagners. This case is pending.
Seewer answered from Toledo.