Man convicted in killings of 8 from another Ohio family seeks new trial

A man convicted in the killings of eight people from another Ohio family is seeking a new trial.

George Wagner IV made the request in a filing Monday with the Ohio Court of Appeals. He claims there were several errors during his 2022 trial in which he was found guilty of all 22 counts he faced, including eight counts of aggravated murder. He argues in his filing that there's “a reasonable probability that jurors were swayed” by the alleged errors.

Prosecutors now have to 60 days to respond to the petition.

Wagner was sentenced to eight consecutive life sentences — one for each victim — and another 121 years for other offenses. Among the alleged errors he cites in his appeal are that prosecutors were allowed to present evidence about crimes and guns not tied to the Rhoden killings, which only served to connect Wagner to criminal acts of his family.

“It is impossible to say beyond a reasonable doubt that jurors did not lose their way and convict George because they thought he was just like his criminal family members,” the appeal argues.

Prosecutors have said the killings, which initially spurred speculation about drug cartel involvement, stemmed from a dispute over custody of Wagner’s niece. The fatal shootings at three mobile homes and a camper near Piketon in April 2016 terrified residents and launched one of the state’s most extensive criminal investigations.

Wagner denied any knowledge of his family’s involvement in the killings and testified that he wouldn’t have let it happen if he had known of the plans.

Prosecutors argued that he did know, participated in the plans and should therefore be convicted in the killings. Though he wasn’t accused of shooting anyone, they said Wagner was with his brother and father when they went to the homes, that he went inside with them and that he helped his brother move two bodies.

His younger brother, Edward “Jake” Wagner, pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and other charges and agreed to testify against George and their parents in a deal to help the family avoid potential death sentences.

Their mother, Angela Wagner, pleaded guilty to helping to plan the killings. Their father, George “Billy” Wagner III, has pleaded not guilty in the killings, and his trial is scheduled to start Jan. 6.