OH family face death penalty for 'execution-style' murders

Chris Rhoden Dana Rhoden Frankie Rhoden and Hanna May Rhoden were among the eight found dead around the southern Ohio community of Piketon in April 2016

In this May 3, 2016, file photo, mourners gather around caskets for six of the eight members of the Rhoden family found shot April 22, 2016, at four properties near Piketon, Ohio, during funeral services at Scioto Burial Park in McDermott, Ohio.

Six members of the Wagner family were arrested yesterday and police say they are responsible for the execution style killings of eight family members in three different rural OH homes. He says there's "no book to refer to" on how to accommodate such a complex, high-interest case. The killings terrified local residents and spawned rumors that it was a drug hit, but prosecutors suggested the attack had stemmed from a custody dispute.

November 7, 2018: Attorney General DeWine said investigators finished examining the evidence. Frankie Rhoden's fiancée, Hannah "Hazel" Gilley, 20, was also killed, along with the elder Christopher Rhoden's brother Kenneth Rhoden, 44, and cousin Gary Rhoden, 38. Hannah Rhoden's newborn baby was found alive near her mother's body.

Authorities could not comment on what brought the family back from Alaska at the press conference Tuesday but did confirm that none were arrested in Alaska.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said in a press conference Tuesday that while he could not speak much on motive at this time, there was a definite fixation on child custody. "It was meticulously planned".

"It certainly has been the worst tragedy", DeWine told the Daily Times in 2016. Police received more than 1,100 tips from the public, tested more than 700 pieces of evidence and conducted almost 600 interviews over the course of their investigation.

In April 2016, Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader and DeWine said it was clear the victims, ranging in age from 16 to 44, had been deliberately singled out for attack at four different crime scenes, majority while they slept. The bodies were discovered in three trailers and a camper.

Almost two dozen law enforcement agencies from 10 different states and Canada also assisted with the investigation. This was a well orchestrated plan, according to DeWine.

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"It's been the most sophisticated operation we've ever undertaken", DeWine said. "It's just unbelievable." Officials repeatedly stated they could not give details because of the ongoing prosecution.

"These people wept over dogs, I can't imagine them taking people's lives", he said. Billy Wagner was arrested in Fayette County, Ky.

If found guilty, the Wagner family could face the death penalty. As of late Tuesday, the suspect still was in Kentucky, awaiting extradition.

Also arrested was Angela Wagner's mother Rita Newcomb and George "Billy" Wagner III's mother Frederica Wagner in conjunction with the cover-up.

"These four are now in custody for allegedly committing this heartless, ruthless, cold-blooded murder", DeWine said Tuesday afternoon. All of the suspects were arrested without incident. They could be sentenced to death if convicted, DeWine said. He waived off media questions regarding details on that last bit of evidence. Prosecutors say the legal process will be lengthy and an indictment is only the beginning of the case. He added funding such large cases in smaller jurisdictions is a statewide problem he hopes to address.

As for what comes next, "justice is slow", writes the Chillicothe Gazette, which reports the prosecution will take years. In a statement, Clark says the family is waiting for the day "when the true culprits will be discovered and brought to justice for this awful tragedy". The four lived near the scenes of the massacre about 60 miles (97 kilometres) south of Columbus and had always been considered chief suspects, DeWine said. The arrests were a total surprise to the Wagners, according to authorities. No court dates have not been set as of yet.

DeWine's office had asked for information about the four Wagner family members in June 2017.

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