The fourth week of testimony in the trial of George Wagner IV in the Pike Co. Massacre will begin after Rhoden family members testified about Wagner’s brother, Jake Wagner, threatening and abusing Hanna May Rhoden, one of the eight victims.
Wagner is on trial for the April 2016 murders of Hanna May, her parents, Christopher Rhoden Sr. and Dana Manley Rhoden, her brothers, Frankie Rhoden and Chris Rhoden Jr., her uncle, Kenneth Rhoden and Frankie’s fiancée, Hannah Hazel Gilley. Wagner’s brother, Jake Wagner, and his mother, Angela Wagner, pleaded guilty to their roles in the murders in 2021 and have agreed to testify against George and his father, Billy Wagner. Prosecutors have said custody of a little girl Jake Wagner and Hanna May Rhoden shared was the motive behind the massacre.
Testimony in Wagner IV’s trial ended Friday with Chelsea Robinson, the former girlfriend of Frankie Rhoden and mother to his then 3-year-old son who was in the home at the time of the slayings.
Robinson testified that when she dated Frankie Rhoden in 2013, Hanna May Rhoden told her about an incident involving the Wagner family and George Wagner IV’s then wife, Tabitha Claytor. Robinson said Hanna May told her that Angela Wagner chased Claytor out of the house with a shotgun and the boys followed. Robinson said Hanna May told her that Jake Wagner threatened to cut off her legs if she told anyone. Claytor will testify at the trial.
Robinson also recalled a conversation she had when Hanna May called her sometime in 2014. Robinson said Hanna May called her from Jake Wagner’s cell phone and was distraught. She said Hanna May told her that Jake Wagner threatened to cut off her legs if she tried to leave the house.
Robinson told the jury Hanna May ended their friendship after she told her father, Chris Rhoden Sr., about the conversation.
George Wagner’s attorneys repeatedly objected to the testimony and even went into the Judge Randy Deering’s chambers with the court reporter for a short time.
Deering later told the jury the testimony was not to be considered as character evidence but to be evaluated as it related to a possible motive to kill the Rhodens.
The testimony lays the foundation for prosecutors to introduce other evidence and testimony that will describe the way the Wagners treated the young women who entered their lives, including Claytor and a woman Jake Wagner married in 2018, after the family moved to Alaska.
Robinson also testified that she dropped off the son she shared with Frankie Rhoden at his home on April 21, 2016 around 9:30 p.m. The next morning, she received a number of phone calls from Cody Manley, a cousin of the Rhodens, telling her what had happened. Robinson didn’t believe it at first.
Brentley Rhoden opened the door to Frankie Rhoden’s home for his aunt the morning the bodies were discovered. The boy is now 10 years old. To this day, Robinson said her son doesn’t remember what happened that night.
Robinson’s testimony followed testimony from several Rhoden and Manley family members who described Jake Wagner’s efforts to control Hanna May Rhoden during and after their relationship. Wagner admitted that his family committed the murders to they could have sole custody of the daughter her shared with Hanna May. The family members described Wagner’s threats to take the little girl, Sophia, away from Hanna May.
Robinson also testified about a message she received from Jake Wagner in April 2017 in which he told her his family was moving to Alaska because she wasn’t supporting him on social media forums. Robinson said she immediately notified BCI about the message. A month later, agents searched the property the and his brother recently sold.
Testimony resumes Monday morning at 9 a.m. when Robinson will be cross-examined.
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