Four people arrested after family of eight murdered ‘execution-style’

Four family members face the death penalty after they were charged with the shocking murders of eight members of another rural family.

The Wagners are accused of murdering seven members of the Rhoden clan in tight-knit Piketon, Ohio, and the fiance of one of the victims.

Police say the next-of-kin suffered multiple gunshot wounds as they lay sleeping in their homes, including one victim who was killed while sleeping with her 5-day-old baby.

Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40; his ex-wife, Dana Rhoden, 37; and their three children, Hanna, 19, Christopher Jr., 16, and Clarence, 20 were killed in four separate homes in April 2016.

Three other victims were Christopher Sr.’s brother, Kenneth Rhoden, 44; a cousin, Gary Rhoden, 38; and Clarence Rhoden’s girlfriend, Hannah Gilley, 20.

Three children including a 6-month-old and a 3-year-old survived the brutal slayings, reports BuzzFeed News.

The four Wagners "clearly have been the prime suspects for some time," Ohio governor De Wine said last week.

He did not pinpoint a motive but suggested the primary intent of the killers was custody of a small child, whose father was a Wagner and mother a Rhoden.

Investigators found evidence of illegal drug activity, cockfighting and the possible involvement of a Mexican drug cartel.

"There certainly was obsession with custody, obsession with control of children," said DeWine

He added: "This is just the most bizarre story I’ve ever seen in being involved in law enforcement.”

George "Billy" Wagner III, 47, his wife Angela Wagner, 48, and their two sons, George Wagner IV, 27, and Edward "Jake" Wagner, 26 are each charged with eight counts of aggravated murder.

Also arrested on Tuesday in an alleged cover-up were Angela Wagner’s mother, Rita Newcomb, 65, and Billy Wagner’s mother Fredericka Wagner, 76, state officials and local media said.

Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader said the six suspects were being held at different locations in Ohio and Kentucky.

Arraignments were expected in the coming days, a prosecutor said.

Pike County is in the Appalachia foothills about 95 miles (150 km) east of Cincinnati.

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