Pike County murder trial: Closing arguments conclude, jury begins deliberations

After a nearly three-month long trial, closing arguments in the first trial for the Pike County murders case concluded Tuesday.

The defense team for George Wagner IV gave their closing arguments Tuesday and stated why they think Wagner is innocent.

Judge Randy Deering gave the jury instructions today just after 2 p.m. and then they went behind closed doors to begin deliberations.

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George Wagner IV was previously indicted on multiple counts of aggravated murder, as well as other charges. He’s been accused of killing Hanna Rhoden, 19; her father, Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40; his wife, Dana Rhoden, 37; their sons, Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16, and Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 20; Frankie’s fiancé, Hannah Gilley, 20; and relatives Kenneth Rhoden, 44, and Gary Rhoden, 38, execution style in April 2016.

He and his brother, Jake Wagner; mother, Angela Wagner; and father, George “Billy” Wagner, have all been accused of the murders. Jake pleaded guilty to eight counts of aggravated murder and a list of other charges for his role in April 2021. Five months later, Angela Wagner pleaded guilty to her role in the killings.

During closing arguments, John Parker, one of George’s attorneys, told the jury that his client was not like his family. The attorney said they aren’t close and that George had nothing to do with the plotting and planning of all eight murders.

“I ask you to take it seriously. I ask you to return a verdict of ‘Not Guilty’ on all charges, all charges. George wasn’t even out there. He told you that. There is nothing credible here to say otherwise,” Parker said.

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Special Prosecutor Andrew Wilson said there’s no way George wasn’t involved in the murders. He said despite Wagner’s testimony that he wasn’t close to his family, evidence has shown that he did have a relationship with them.

“There’s been no direct testimony that he actually pulled the trigger in any one of those murders, but you better believe he’s up to his eyeballs with his family,” Wilson said.

Prosecutors said they took the death penalty off the table when both Jake and Angela agreed to testify against George.