WAVERLY, Ohio — The lone female defendant in one of Ohio's most notorious murder cases of the century pleaded guilty Friday to a number of charges in connection with the murders of eight people in southern Ohio.
Angela Wagner, 50, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit aggravated murder, burglary, tampering with evidence and other charges in the Pike County case that shocked the nation and has drawn comparisons to the famous Appalachian country Hatfield-McCoy feud, that bordered the Kentucky-West Virginia line in the late 1800s.
Authorities say this case stemmed from a dispute over custody of Angela Wagner's granddaughter. Angela is the second Wagner to plead guilty in the case. Her son Jake Wagner pleaded guilty on April 23, on the fifth anniversary of the murders.
"Our society reveres mothers for taking care of their children and teaching them to do the right thing, even when it’s hard," Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said. "But by actively plotting the murder of an entire family and encouraging her own kids to carry out the violence, Angela Wagner abjectly failed in her responsibilities.
"I send my thanks to the dedicated special agents, forensic scientists and intelligence analysts at the Bureau of Criminal Investigation — at least 33 past and present by my office’s count — who have worked this case without ceasing since the start. Their work will continue until each of the perpetrators of these crimes are held accountable."
Eight members of the Rhoden family were killed in the 2016 incident, including seven adults and a teenage boy.
In exchange for the plea, prosecutors dropped aggravated murder charges against her and recommended that she serve a 30-year prison sentence, the Associated Press reported. Her agreement to testify against other remaining defendants was also part of the deal.
Angela's husband, George “Billy” Wagner III, and George Wagner IV have pleaded not guilty.
The fatal shootings at three trailers and a camper near Piketon in April 2016 triggered the most extensive criminal investigations in state history. The Wagner family moved to Alaska at one point, but then returned to the region and were eventually arrested, two years after the killings.
Most of the victims were repeatedly shot in the head, and some showed signs of bruising. Three young children at the various scenes were unharmed.
The victims were 40-year-old Christopher Rhoden Sr.; his ex-wife, 37-year-old Dana Rhoden; their three children, 20-year-old Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 16-year-old Christopher Jr., and 19-year-old Hanna; Clarence Rhoden’s fiancee, 20-year-old Hannah Gilley; Christopher Rhoden Sr.’s brother, 44-year-old Kenneth Rhoden; and a cousin, 38-year-old Gary Rhoden.
Prosecutors say the Wagner family planned the killings for months, motivated by a dispute over custody of the daughter Jake Wagner had with Hanna Rhoden.
Prosecutors say the Wagners used guns with homemade silencers, allowing them to kill their victims as they slept, according to one of the lead prosecutors.
Jake Wagner said he was “deeply and very sorry” while pleading guilty at his April court appearance. He hasn’t been sentenced, but his lawyer said he understood that he would spend his life in prison.