On Tuesday, Ohio authorities arrested three generations of a Pike County family accused of mass murder.
NBC News reports that ‘parents George “Billy” Wagner III, 47, and Angela Wagner, 48, and their two sons, George Wagner IV, 27, and Edward “Jake” Wagner, 26,” were arrested by Pike County Sheriff’s deputies in connection to eight killings.
The 2016 murders were all committed against members of the Rhoden family, who ran a marijuana grow on their Pike County property.
The crimes, writes NBC, took place in three mobile homes on Union Hill Road as well as another residence several miles away. The victims were all shot to death, execution-style, with an autopsy revealing some signs of a struggle.
The presence of over 100 marijuana plants on the Rhoden property led investigators to explore the possibility the victims were involved with Mexican drug cartels.
Even after the Wagner arrests, officials aren’t saying if narcotics played a role.
Each of the Wagners were indicted by a grand jury on more than 80 criminal counts: among the charges were eight counts of aggravated murder, each of which could carry a death sentence.
While Ohio officials refused to offer in-depth information, they’ve claimed a ‘custody battle’ triggered the killings—killings which prosecutors have called “meticulous.” The Wagners were allegedly found in possession of forged custody documents.
Along with the two younger generations, Angela Wagner’s 65-year old mother, Rita Newcomb, and Billy Wagner’s 76-year old mother, Fredericka Wagner, are facing separate charges of obstruction of justice and perjury.
Newcomb, says NBC, was also indicted for forgery.
“They did this quickly, coldly, calmly and very carefully—but not carefully enough,” Pike County Sheriff Charles S. Reader said. “They left traces, they left a trail—the parts to build a silencer, the forged documents, the cameras, the cell phones, all that they tampered with. And the lies, all the lies they told us.”
The victims’ ages ranged between 16 and 44—only three Rhoden children survived, the oldest being but three years old.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, now the state’s governor-elect, said the Wagners had an “obsession” with custody and control.
Before the killings, the Rhodens and Wagners were purportedly close—just last year, Angela Wagner told the Cincinnati Enquirer that her husband Billy was “best friends” with one of the victims.
That familiarity, say prosecutors, helped the Wagners plan the overnight killings. They studied the Rhodens’ routines and homes, sharing information about where each of the victims slept. DeWine’s office said the Wagners even took notes on “countersurveillance devices present on the property, including pets.”
“It was meticulously planned. They knew what they were doing. They thought about it. A lot,” DeWine said.