Wearing a belt around his orange Butler County Jail uniform that bound his shackled hands to his waist, Billy Wagner stood Tuesday before a Pike County judge and pleaded not guilty to charges that he and his family killed eight people 2½ years ago.
Like his wife and two sons last week, the 47-year-old Wagner — whose legal name is George W. Wagner III — waived his right to speedy trial and was ordered held without bond. He will be held at the jail in Hamilton.
As with each of the prior arraignments, surviving members of the Rhoden, Gilley, and Manley families sat several rows deep for the hearing, many still wearing T-shirts commemorating loved ones killed on April 22, 2016, including the mother of Wagner III’s granddaughter.
Wagner III’s ankles were also bound so that, when he occasionally stood or moved his feet, the silver chains restraining him rapped the plastic chair mat beneath him. His hair was buzzed far shorter than it had been Nov. 13 when, according to body camera video first obtained this week by the Dayton Daily News, police in Lexington, Kentucky arrested him at gunpoint.
Throughout the arraignment, Ryan Scheiderer, an Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation special agent and one of three targets in a revenge plot allegedly discussed by the Wagners if any were individually arrested, occasionally stared at Wagner III.
At the defendant’s table were Wagner III’s Columbus-based attorney, Mark Collins, and an entourage of fellow attorneys and private investigators, including Jim Longerbone, a former Columbus police detective.
Collins declined comment pending the finalization of a gag order, but said uncharged Wagner relatives might be made available for comment in the future.
Last week, Wagner III’s wife, 48-year-old Angela Wagner, and their two sons, Edward “Jake” Wagner, 26, and George Wagner IV, 27, each pleaded not guilty to the same 22 counts, including eight counts of aggravated murder which carry the possibility of the death penalty upon conviction.
Jake Wagner also pleaded not guilty to allegations of unlawful sexual conduct with Hanna Rhoden, one of the murder victims with whom he fathered a child.
Also charged in connection to the case are Billy Wagner’s mother, Fredericka Wagner, 76, and Angela Wagner’s mother, Rita Jo Newcomb, 65. Both pleaded not guilty to accusations they lied to a grand jury and helped cover up the killings. Newcomb additionally pleaded not guilty to forgery charges.