Edward 'Jake' Wagner

Edward “Jake” Wagner enters the Pike County Court of Common Pleas on Tuesday morning where he originally pleaded not guilty to 23 charges alleged against him, including eight counts of aggravated murder. Thursday he pleaded guilty.

In an immediate hearing which was called on Thursday afternoon, 28-year-old suspect Jake Wagner pleaded guilty to the brutal killings of all eight of the Rhoden family members who were murdered on April 22, 2016.

The hearing, which began at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday in Waverly, was a result of Wagner’s decision to change his not guilty plea from three years ago to guilty. That original plea was made back in 2018 when four members of the Wagner family were arrested and charged with the murder of eight Rhoden family members.

Thursday marks exactly five years since arguably the most horrendous event in Pike County’s history. The event has garnered national attention in the years since and has been the result of TV show episodes, documentaries, podcasts, and more.

As a result of Wagner’s decision to plead guilty, an agreement has been reached with prosecutors that he will testify against his other charged family members. In turn, Wagner will avoid receiving the death penalty in a state in which Capital Punishment is within the law.

Members of the Rhoden family were present at Thursday’s hearing, and according to Pike County Prosecutor Rob Junk, members of the victim’s families have agreed to the plea deal.

Members of the Rhoden family who were murdered five years ago include Christopher Rhoden Sr., Dana Manley Rhoden, Christopher Rhoden Jr., Clarence Rhoden, Hanna Rhoden, Hannah Gilley, Gary Rhoden, and Kenneth Rhoden.

The killings have been alleged to be a result of the relationship between Jake Wagner and Hanna Rhoden. The two were said to be involved in a relationship that lasted for about two years and resulted in a child between the two. The killing spree has been linked with a major custody dispute between the two parties.

Ethan Leist is the editor of The News Watchman.

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