- By Will Garbe Staff Writer
No arrests have been made in the grisly deaths of eight members of a Pike County family, but Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s spokesman said the Rhoden murder investigation “remains very active and ongoing.”
The spokesman, Dan Tierney, would not discuss whether the Bureau of Criminal Investigation recently executed search warrants in Pike and Scioto counties in the unsolved 2016 case.
“We haven’t been commenting on individual investigative activities over the course of this investigation,” Tierney said. “I will say, however, that the Rhoden murder investigation remains very active and ongoing.”
The Rhoden case re-entered the news cycle Friday after an overnight Facebook post alleged two arrests in the case, something Tierney said was untrue and “a bad tip.”
No person has ever been identified as a suspect in the case.
Tierney said DeWine still stands by a June 2017 request seeking information about four members of the Wagner family: Jake Wagner, his mother Angela Wagner, his father, George “Billy” Wagner III, and brother George Wagner IV.
Jake Wagner fathered a daughter with Hanna Rhoden, one of the victims.
At the time, DeWine’s office said the family was believed to be in Alaska. But when asked Friday, Tierney declined to comment on whether the family still lived there.
“That’s not something I’m going to comment on,” Tierney said when asked if the family had returned to Ohio.
The Wagner family’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.
In April, the attorney, John Kearson Clark Jr., told this newsroom the “Wagners had no reason to wish them harm. The Wagners wish the investigative authorities would expend their efforts in finding and holding the true killer(s) accountable. Only then will the Rhodens’ deaths be vindicated.”
In other media interviews around the April anniversary, Clark implied that DeWine was targeting the Wagners in order to make it appear progress was being made in the case.
In May 2017, investigators searched a property on Ohio 41 in Adams County, the property owner, Bernie Brown, told WCPO-TV. Brown told the station that Jake Wagner sometimes worked for him fixing cars. The week before the search, the Wagners had dropped items off at the property, he said. Investigators then searched two large trailers and took one smaller utility trailer owned by the Wagners.
Also in May 2017, investigators searched property formerly owned by Jake and George Wagner IV.
Then, abruptly, there was an arrest — of James Manley, the brother of victim Dana Manley Rhoden, on charges of tampering with evidence and vandalism for allegedly destroying a state GPS tracker on his truck.
Manley’s father, Leonard Manley, accused authorities of attaching the tracker on the truck because of text messages allegedly exchanged between Jake Wagner and James Manley the night of the murders.
Days before DeWine’s announcement, Jake Wagner told the Cincinnati Enquirer the text messages “did not happen.”
A Pike County judge dismissed the charges against James Manley so that evidence could be presented to a grand jury. There have been no announcements since of any grand jury action.
The dead in the April 22, 2016 massacre include Hannah Rhoden, 19; her father Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40; his ex-wife, Dana Rhoden, 37; their sons, Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16, and Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 20; Frankie’s fiancee, Hannah Gilley, 20; and relatives Kenneth Rhoden, 44, and Gary Rhoden, 38.
Ohio authorities ask those who have information in the case to call the Pike County Sheriff’s Office at 740-947-2111.
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