A man was sentenced on Monday to life in prison without the possibility of parole after being convicted of killing eight members of an Ohio family in 2016.
George Wagner IV sat in court as the victims’ loved ones described their grief, with the former girlfriend of one of the slain individuals telling him to “burn in hell.”
One of the most tragic moments came when a letter was read from one of the victim’s 9-year-old son, who asked Wagner, “Why did you kill my daddy?”
Authorities alleged that Wagner, his brother, and their parents planned the murders as part of a dispute over custody of Wagner’s niece. The niece’s mother was one of the victims.
Wagner refused to speak during the sentencing, and his lawyer said the convicted murderer still says he is innocent. Wagner has repeatedly denied knowledge of his family’s involvement in the shooting deaths of seven adults and one teenager of the Rhoden Family more than six years ago, the Associated Press reported. Prosecutors alleged at trial that the victims were killed while they slept, with some killed as they slept next to their young children, who were unharmed.
The murders took place at three separate mobile homes and a camper near Piketon, Ohio, and were initially suspected by residents as being the work of a drug cartel. Prosecutors alleged that Wagner was with his brother and father when they entered the homes and murdered the family members, helping to move two bodies afterward. The investigation into the crimes cost millions of dollars and has become one of the state’s most expensive murder investigations.
Wagner’s attorneys insisted that he didn’t kill anyone and that denying him “a meaningful chance of parole” constituted cruel and unusual punishment banned by the U.S. Constitution. His attorneys also requested a new trial, but Judge Randy Deering denied their motion.
Wagner was convicted on 22 counts, including eight counts of aggravated murder. He is one of four defendants in the murders and the first to face trial.
His brother, Edward “Jake,” pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and other charges, admitting his guilt in five of the shootings. He is expected to be sentenced to life in prison, the AP reported.
Wagner’s mother, Angela, pleaded guilty to her role in planning the murders. Prosecutors have recommended she receive a 30-year sentence. Angela’s husband, George “Billy” Wagner III, pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.
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