WAVERLY, Ohio (AP) — Opening statements were planned Monday for the first trial in the case of eight members of a single Ohio family shot to death more than six years ago.
Defendant George Wagner IV was charged in Pike County Court in the 2016 slayings of the Rhoden family near Piketon in southern Ohio. Wagner, 30, faces the death penalty if convicted. A 12-person jury with six alternates was selected last week in county court in Waverly, about 65 miles (105 kilometers) south of Columbus.
Authorities say the shootings of seven adults and a teenage boy stemmed from a dispute over custody of a child that George Wagner’s brother, Jake Wagner, had with Hanna Rhoden, one of the victims. George Wagner’s parents and brother were also charged. The Wagners spent months planning the killings motivated by the custody dispute, prosecutors say.
Jake Wagner pleaded guilty last year in the shootings, admitting to killing five of the victims. His plea was part of a deal with prosecutors that spared him from being sentenced to death. Wagner’s mother, Angela Wagner, also pleaded guilty to helping plan the slayings. Jake and George’s father, George “Billy” Wagner III, has pleaded not guilty.