PIKE COUNTY, Ohio — A family of four have been arrested Tuesday in connection to the murders of eight members of the Rhoden family in rural Pike County, Ohio in 2016, according to authorities.
The four are members of the Wagner family, of South Webster, Ohio and were taken into custody this afternoon, the AG's office said in a media release.
George “Billy” Wagner III, 47, Angela Wagner, 48, George Wagner, 27, and Edward “Jake” Wagner, 26, were all taken into custody.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said a grand jury indicted the four on aggravated murder charges and they could be sentenced to death if convicted.
DeWine gave scant detail about why the victims were killed, but said the custody of a young child played a role. He said they had carefully planned the killings for months.
“There certainly was an obsession with custody, obsession with control of children,” said DeWine, who earlier this month was elected governor.
He added: “I just might tell you this is just the most bizarre story I’ve ever seen in being involved in law enforcement.”
Authorities said marijuana growing operations were found at three of the four crime scenes. That’s not uncommon in this corner of Appalachia but stoked rumors that the slayings were related to drugs, one of many theories on possible motives that percolated in public locally.
George "Billy" Wagner's arrest was made in Lexington, Kentucky, a Lexington police spokesperson confirmed to WHIO.
The Wagners have been charged with planning and carrying out the murders of the eight Rhoden family members April 22, 2016.
The Wagners were never officially named as suspects, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine asked for information from the public about the Wagners in June.
The Wagner family last year moved to Alaska. They didn’t stay there long, according to Kelly Cinereski, a pastor and friend of the family who lives in Seward.
“They were trying to run from the story so they could live a normal life, but everywhere they went it wasn’t normal,” he said.
Cinereski, knew the family in Ohio before he moved to Alaska, said the Wagners were “just a down-to-Earth, good wholesome family.”
“These people wept over dogs, I can’t imagine them taking people’s lives,” he said when told of the charges.
"If they did it, I hope they get tried to the max. If they didn't, I hope they get pleaded," he said.
Click here for the latest from WHIO as the story develops.
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