Co-Defendant in Pike County Massacre Pleads Guilty, Says She Couldn’t Lie Anymore

One of the defendants in the mass murders of an Ohio family pleaded guilty on Monday. Rita Jo Newcomb admits to a misdemeanor count of obstruction, but the felony charges of perjury and forgery are dismissed. It remains to be seen what the sentence will be.

Newcomb was charged in connection to the 2016 murders of eight members of the Rhoden family.

Victims were identified as 38-year-old Dana Manley Rhoden, 40-year-old Christopher Rhoden Sr., 20-year-old Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 19-year-old Hanna May Rhoden, 16-year-old  Christopher Rhoden Jr., 44-year-old Kenneth Rhoden, and 38-year-old Gary Rhoden. Clarence’s 20-year-old fiancée Hannah “Hazel” Gilley was also killed. The family was slain across three trailers and a camper. All but one of them had been shot multiple times in the head, according to the autopsy.

The prosecution’s theory is that these killings were over custody of Hannah May Rhoden’s daughter (the father was Edward “Jake” Wagner, and they had broken up before the killings). He, mother Angela Wagner, father George “Billy” Wagner III, and brother George Wagner IV were charged as the alleged killers. The cases against them are pending. A perjury and obstruction case against George Wagner III’s mother Fredericka Wagner was dismissed in June.

Newcomb’s guilty plea will likely play a role against the active co-defendants. At the very least, it will weigh against daughter Angela Wagner.

Newcomb, a notary, admitted she didn’t sign three custody documents. She had falsely claimed it was her signature after her daughter Angela Wagner asked her to lie, say prosecutors.

[Screengrab of Newcomb in a July 2019 hearing via Local 12]

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