A massive search operation over the weekend revived a year-old question: What’s going on with the Pike County murders?
The flurry of activity is the latest — and perhaps, largest — movement by authorities in the year-old murder case that began April 22, 2016, when eight people from the Rhoden and Gilley families were found dead.
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For months it’s been unclear what leads, if any, authorities were pursuing. Those answers are not yet fully clear, but a recap of recent events and reporting may help make sense of the latest activity:
» Friday, May 12: A multi-agency team searched at least two locations — a farm and a business — in Adams County, Ohio, near Pike County. The Ohio Attorney General’s office did not confirm the searches were related to the murders. An Adams County Sheriff’s deputy blocked Peterson Road at Ohio 32 late Friday, where at least two Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation crime unit trucks were observed by this news organization.
A 71-acre property near the intersection on Peterson Road was at one time co-owned by Edward Jacob Wagner and George W. Wagner IV. One of the victims of the slaying, Hanna Rhoden, had a 2-year-old daughter named Sophia Wagner with a man named Jake Wagner, but it was not immediately clear if Edward Jacob Wagner and Jake Wagner are the same individuals. The Cincinnati Enquirer reports they are the same person.
The Pike County Sheriff’s Office, Adams County Sheriff’s Office, Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Ohio Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation STAR team — a task force typically reserved for prison riots — each took part in the search.
» Saturday, May 13: The Franklin County Sheriff’s SWAT team joined the effort, but there was initial confusion over the role the Columbus-based team played in the operation. At first, office spokesman Marc Gofstein told our news partners at WCPO-TV in Cincinnati the SWAT team was searching for possible suspects, but he then retracted the comments and said the team was helping search for evidence. Had Gofstein’s initial statement been true, it would have marked the first time authorities acknowledged suspects in the case.
Also on Saturday, authorities searched the Flying W Farm in Pike County, according to WCPO. A Wagner family member at the farm declined to speak with a reporter.
The search operation ended Saturday.
» Monday, May 15: Our news partners at WCPO reported a trailer belonging to Wagner family was seized by authorities during the operation. Investigators with several law enforcement agencies confiscated the trailer during their search of property on state Route 41 both Friday and Saturday.
Bernie Brown, who owns the site, told WCPO authorities searched two large trailers and took one smaller utility trailer owned by the Wagner family. Brown said Jake Wagner sometimes works for him repairing vehicles and the Wagners had dropped items off at the property about a week earlier.
» Tuesday, May 16: BCI agents have been tracking a victim’s brother’s truck, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported. The report states the 45-day warrant was issued April 21 for James T. Manley’s truck. The warrant, according to the newspaper, indicates authorities think the truck was “used as a means of the commission of the crime” of aggravated murder, but does not name Manley as a suspect or tie it to the Rhoden case. The report said Manley recently submitted a polygraph test in Dayton, which family members told the newspaper he failed.
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