Edward ‘Jake’ Wagner pleads guilty in deadly shootings of 8 from Pike County family

Edward "Jake" Wagner planned to plead guilty to eight counts of aggravated murder. In exchange, prosecutors have dropped the possibility of a death sentence on Thursday, April 22, 2021. Wagner is shown escorted by police into the holding area in the Pike County Common Pleas Court in Waverly, Ohio, in this Nov. 27, 2018, file photo. (Brooke Laay, Valley/The Columbus Dispatch via AP, File)
Caption
Edward "Jake" Wagner planned to plead guilty to eight counts of aggravated murder. In exchange, prosecutors have dropped the possibility of a death sentence on Thursday, April 22, 2021. Wagner is shown escorted by police into the holding area in the Pike County Common Pleas Court in Waverly, Ohio, in this Nov. 27, 2018, file photo. (Brooke Laay, Valley/The Columbus Dispatch via AP, File)

Credit: Brooke Laay, Valley/The Columbus Dispatch via AP, File

Credit: Brooke Laay, Valley/The Columbus Dispatch via AP, File

A man has pleaded guilty in the murders of his child’s mother and seven other members of her family in southern Ohio.

A man pleaded guilty in the murders of his child’s mother and seven other members of her family on Thursday, the fifth anniversary of when the shootings were discovered in southern Ohio.

Edward “Jake” Wagner pleaded guilty to 23 counts in Pike County court in a deal with prosecutors that spares him from a potential death penalty. He agreed to cooperate in the cases against his parents and brother, who also are charged in the Rhoden family slayings of seven adults and a teenage boy.

ExplorePike County investigation: 8 deaths and multiple arrests were tied to one key factor — child custody

“I am guilty, your honor,” Wagner calmly told the judge again and again, as each count was read. The charges included eight counts of aggravated murder, as well as charges of conspiracy, aggravated burglary, tampering with evidence and other charges.

Wagner, 28, said he was deeply sorry. He wasn’t immediately sentenced, but his lawyers acknowledged in court that the plea means he will die in prison, and they said he understood that.

The killings in April 2016 — at three trailers and a camper near Piketon — terrified residents in the surrounding rural community and prompted one of the most extensive criminal investigations in state history. It took authorities more than two years to announce the arrests.

ExplorePike County shooting victims: A closer look at the 8 who died

George Billy Wagner III, Angela Wagner and their son George Billy Wagner IV have pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors alleged the Wagner family planned the killings for months, motivated by a custody dispute. Most of the victims were repeatedly shot in the head, and some showed signs of bruising, as if they had been beaten. Three young children at the scenes, including Jake Wagner’s child, 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, the mother of Jake Wagner’s child; Clarence Rhoden’s fiancée, 20-year-old Hannah Gilley; Christopher Rhoden Sr.’s brother, 44-year-old Kenneth Rhoden; and a cousin, 38-year-old Gary Rhoden.

ExploreTimeline: The shocking events of the Pike County massacre

One of their relatives, Tony Rhoden Sr., has sued the suspects, saying he wanted to be sure none of them benefitted financially from the slayings.

Caption
This Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018, file photo shows Edward "Jake" Wagner entering the courtroom for arraignment in front of Judge Randy Deering at the Pike County Courthouse in Waverly, Ohio. Wagner planned to plead guilty to eight counts of aggravated murder. In exchange, prosecutors have dropped the possibility of a death sentence, Thursday, April 22, 2021. (Robert McGraw/The Chillicothe Gazette via AP, Pool, File)

Credit: Robert McGraw

This Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018, file photo shows Edward "Jake" Wagner entering the courtroom for arraignment in front of Judge Randy Deering at the Pike County Courthouse in Waverly, Ohio. Wagner planned to plead guilty to eight counts of aggravated murder. In exchange, prosecutors have dropped the possibility of a death sentence, Thursday, April 22, 2021. (Robert McGraw/The Chillicothe Gazette via AP, Pool, File)
Caption
This Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018, file photo shows Edward "Jake" Wagner entering the courtroom for arraignment in front of Judge Randy Deering at the Pike County Courthouse in Waverly, Ohio. Wagner planned to plead guilty to eight counts of aggravated murder. In exchange, prosecutors have dropped the possibility of a death sentence, Thursday, April 22, 2021. (Robert McGraw/The Chillicothe Gazette via AP, Pool, File)

Credit: Robert McGraw

Credit: Robert McGraw

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