Pike County massacre trial, Week 4: Witness testifies defendant looked ‘lost’ after killings occurred

WAVERLY — Testimony from a childhood friend of George Wagner IV in the trial in which he is charged with murdering eight members of the Rhoden family revealed that after the murders, he appeared hurt and lost.

Wagner, along with his mother Angela, father George “Billy” Wagner and brother Edward “Jake” Wagner, is accused of shooting and killing the Rhoden family members “execution-style.” The family’s bodies were found on April 22, 2016. He faces eight charges of aggravated murder, along with other charges associated with tampering with evidence, conspiracy and forgery.

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Found dead that day were 40-year-old Christopher Rhoden Sr., 37-year-old Dana Rhoden, 20-year-old Hannah “Hazel” Gilley, 16-year-old Christopher Rhoden Jr., 20-year-old Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 37-year-old Gary Rhoden, 19-year-old Hanna May Rhoden, and 44-year-old Kenneth Rhoden.

ExploreThe first 3 weeks of the Pike County murder trial of George Wagner IV

The trial is the first time a person has faced a jury for the deaths of the Rhoden family six years ago.

One of the witnesses on the stand Monday was Samantha Staley, whose dad worked with Fredericka Wagner, George’s grandmother, on the Flying W farm. She told the courtroom she knew the brothers George and Jake Wagner from a young age and it was her observation that when their mother Angela told them to do something they did it. This confirms other testimony that the Wagner family very much operated as a unit, which goes against the defense that George stood away from the others when the Rhodens were killed and did not participate.

Staley also said she previously dated Frankie Rhoden when they were freshmen in high school. Staley was also a babysitter for Sophia, the daughter of Jake Wagner and Hanna May Rhoden. Prosecutors have said they believe Sophia’s care and custody is behind the Wagners allegedly killing the Rhodens.

Staley told the courtroom that one day when she babysat Sophia, Jake called her with questions, asking if she had the diaper bag or had seen Hanna. He asked her to ‘be a spy” for his daughter Sophia’s sake.

She also testified that George Wagner was different after the murders, seeming emotionless and lost.

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