WAVERLY, Ohio (AP) — A family who Ohio authorities have called the “special focus” of an investigation into the slayings of eight members of a different family say they are being harassed by the state attorney general’s office despite their cooperation.
The family’s attorney, John Kearson Clark, said on Tuesday that the four Wagner family members provided laptops, phones and DNA samples to investigators, and agreed to be interviewed about the Rhoden family slayings in Pike County in April 2016.
The Wagner family lived in Peebles, Ohio, at the time of the killings but recently moved to Alaska.
“The authorities (using the media) want the public to believe that the Wagners are responsible and have absconded,” Clark told the newspaper. “If that were true, why would the Wagners have come forward on their own and agreed to give whatever limited information they had?”
Clark said the family is being “harassed while the real killer or killers are out there.”
Last week, Attorney General Mike DeWine and Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader issued a statement asking for information about the Wagners and included driver’s license photos of George “Billy” Wagner III, his wife, Angela, and their two adult sons, George and Edward “Jake”. DeWine wouldn’t say this week why investigators are focusing on the Wagners, the newspaper reported. The release said investigators wanted to hear from people who had conversations with the Wagners, including information about vehicles, firearms and ammunition.
The Wagners have denied any involvement in the shooting deaths of Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40; his wife, Dana Manley Rhoden, 37; his children, Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 20; Hanna Rhoden, 19; Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16; his brother, Kenneth Rhoden, 44; cousin Gary Rhoden, 38; and Frankie Rhoden’s fiancee, Hannah Gilley, 20.
Angela Wagner has said her husband and Christopher Rhoden Sr. were more like brothers than friends. Jake Wagner was once Hanna Rhoden’s boyfriend and shared custody of their 3-year-old daughter at the time of the massacre.
Investigators earlier this month searched the Wagners’ farm in Peebles, a farm owned by Billy Wagner’s father, and the family’s packed belongings for the move to Alaska. The family was in Alaska during the searches.
Authorities suspect there were multiple attackers who were familiar with the Rhodens’ homes and the surrounding area. The motive behind the April 22, 2016, killings remains a mystery.