A man who assisted in the slaughter of eight members from the same Ohio family will spend the rest of his life in prison without the chance of ever getting out, a judge determined Monday.
George Wagner IV was hit with the eight life sentences after a heart-wrenching hearing, in which the victims’ loved ones called on the judge to show no mercy to the 31-year-old who prosecutors said helped plot out the 2016 murders with other members of his family.
Prosecutors also stressed he’s shown no remorse since the slayings.
“We are all suffering, hurting, always heartbroken, forever without our children!” said Andrea Shoemaker, the mother of victim Hannah Gilley, as she pounded on the lectern. “All because devils like the dark, devils hunt at night, just like you, George Wagner IV, and your evil family did.”
Gilley was engaged to one of the other slain victims in the shooting planned and carried out by Wagner’s brother, mother and father, according to prosecutors.
Seven adults and one teenager from the Rhoden family were all shot dead, most of them while they slept in three mobile homes and a camper near Piketon, prosecutors said. Some of the victims were even sleeping next to their young children, who weren’t injured.
Wagner and his family schemed to kill the Rhoden family because there was a dispute over custody of Wagner’s niece, whose mother was among the murdered, authorities have said.
“None of these victims deserved to die,” special prosecutor Angela Canepa told the judge. “None of them did anything to warrant the death sentences they received at the hands of the defendant and his family.”
Wagner denied he had any involvement in the massacre, but was still convicted of 22 counts connected to the case, including aggravated murder. He avoided the death penalty because his brother Edward “Jake” Wagner agreed to testify against his other family members and pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and other charges.
Mother Angela Wagner pleaded guilty to helping plan the slaying while her husband George “Billy” Wagner III pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors allege Wagner went inside the homes the night of the murders and helped move two bodies.
Wagner did not make a statement in court and has maintained his innocence. His legal team told the court that denying him “a meaningful chance of parole” was a cruel and unusual punishment.
The victims were Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40, his ex-wife, Dana Rhoden, 37, their three children, Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 20, Hanna Rhoden, 19, and Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16, Clarence Rhoden’s fiancée, Hannah Gilley, 20, Christopher Rhoden Sr.’s brother Kenneth Rhoden, 44, and a cousin, 38-year-old Gary Rhoden.
“I hope you feel the loneliness and emptiness we feel for the rest of your life,” April Manley, the sister-in-law of Dana Rhoden, told Wagner, according to WLWT.
“I hope when you go to sleep at night you see those 8 faces and they haunt you for the rest of your life.”
With Post wires