Good lort, gawd almighty, this is the craziest hicks-with-guns story I’ve read in a while.
It starts with the April 22, 2016, execution-style murders of the Rhoden family in Pike County, Ohio.
Prosecutors say they know exactly who executed the eight family members, and they are gearing up to present their case to a jury when the first trial in Ohio’s most costly and complex criminal investigation starts in late August. The trial will give onlookers a front-row view into a corner of America known more through stereotypes than complex realities: a place where, often, family protects family at all costs and where love and loyalty trump all else.
“A lot of this, and I don’t mean this in any kind of derogatory way, is the code of the hills,” said Mike Allen, a Cincinnati-based criminal defense lawyer who has monitored the case from the start. “Family sticks together.”
More than six years and thousands of pieces of evidence later, prosecutors are expected to unfurl a diabolical scheme by four members of one family to kill eight members of another.
The alleged motive: to obtain sole custody of a shared daughter, who was a toddler at the time.
George Wagner IV, 30, faces 22 charges alleging that he was part of his family’s criminal enterprise in the planning, plotting, execution and coverup in the shooting deaths of Christopher “Chris” Rhoden Sr., 40; Chris Rhoden’s former wife, Dana Manley Rhoden, 37; their children, Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 20, Hanna May Rhoden, 19, and Christopher “Chris” Rhoden Jr., 16; Frankie’s fiancee, Hannah Hazel Gilley, 20; Christopher Sr.’s brother Kenneth Rhoden, 44; and their cousin Gary Rhoden, 38.
So many twists and turns. So much bloodshed. All for nothing more than a custody fight among hillbillies with guns.