An Analysis of the Pike County Massacre, A Gruesome Murder Conspiracy

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Posted: July 06, 2022
An Analysis of the Pike County Massacre, A Gruesome Murder Conspiracy

Attorney Gabriel Sepulveda-Sanchez recently appeared on Law and Crime about the gruesome Pike County Massacre, where 8 members of the Rhoden family were killed in Ohio in 2016. Four members of the Wagner family are currently facing conspiracy and aggravated murder charges. Some of the criminal defendants may face the death penalty.

The Pike County Massacre is a truly heinous, evil crime. Seven adults and one 16-year-old boy were shot execution-style in four different locations. Evidence points to a pre-meditated conspiracy to carry out the murders, led by the ex-boyfriend of one of the victims.

Background on the Pike County Massacre

The investigation into the Pike County Massacre became the largest in Ohio history.

In 2018, authorities in Ohio arrested 4 members of the Wagner-Newcomb family for the murders and another 2 members of the family for lying to investigators and obstructing justice.

Because of the grisly details of the case – and the fact that the murders were planned ahead of time – the 4 people suspected of carrying out the killings face aggravated murder charges. This is an even more serious crime that carries the possibility of the death penalty in Ohio.

To add another twist to the case, in 2021, two of the four Wagner family members charged with the murders agreed to plea deals with the prosecution.

  • Edward “Jake” Wagner pleaded guilty to shooting five of the eight victims in a deal to avoid the death penalty for himself, his parents, and his older brother. He also agreed to cooperate with the prosecution and testify against his family members. The court sentenced him to 8 life sentences without the possibility of parole.
  • Angela Wagner, Jake’s mother, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit aggravated murder along with other lesser charges. In the deal, the prosecution agreed to drop the remaining 8 counts of aggravated murder she was facing (along with the death penalty). She will serve 30 years in prison without the possibility of parole or early release.

That’s two defendants rolling over to plead guilty. What about the remaining two?

Will the Pike County Massacre Case Go to Trial?

As Gabriel discusses in his appearance on Law and Crime, prosecutors may no longer need to make any more plea deals. With the testimony they get through Jake and Angela Wagner’s cooperation, they might have everything they need to put away the other defendants.

After all, in a case as high-profile as this – one of the victims was shot next to her 4-day-old baby – Ohio authorities are determined to carry out justice.

So while the two remaining defendants may want the option of a plea deal to avoid facing the death penalty, prosecutors may not bother giving them that chance.

Meanwhile, the remaining Wagner family lawyers are doing their best with tough clients to defend. With the facts no doubt heavily stacked against their client, they’re challenging the case based on legal grounds – in this case, a motion to change the venue.

In reality, this motion doesn’t really have a leg to stand on. At this point, the defense lawyers may not have much to lose, even if the motion is denied. They’re doing whatever they can to minimize or drag out the case. Sometimes, defense lawyers deliberately irritate prosecutors with tedious motions in order to get a better deal for their clients. Using these types of tactics could be a way for the defense to push the DA to give their clients a better plea deal.

It’s unclear if that tactic will work. This case may likely go to trial after all.

Watch the Law and Crime segment for more about this shocking case.

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