For the second day in a row on Wednesday, Pike County Court of Common Pleas Judge Randy Deering oversaw a hearing designed to steer further towards trial the case against one of the persons accused in the 2016 Rhoden murders.
Tuesday saw the youngest defendant, Edward “Jake” Wagner face Deering for a pretrial hearing.
On Wednesday, Edward Wagner’s father, George Wagner III, another suspect in the murders, sat in front of Deering for yet another of his pretrial sessions.
A total of six members of the Pike County Wagner clan were arrested in November in connection with what’s been called the massacre of eight people, most members of the Rhoden family. Those six suspects have been in and out of Deering’s court for multiple pretrial hearings since then.
At this point in the judicial process, most of the courtroom happenings in the case seem to revolve around defense motions for discovery, evidence held by prosecutors and law enforcement officials.
“There’s a voluminous amount of discovery,” said one of George Wagner’s court-appointed attorneys, Mark Collins.
Collins comment may be a bit of an understatement. He and Angela Canepa, a special prosecutor assigned to the case by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, talked about sharing multiple computer hard drives of information. Collins mentioned receiving five discs of information from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation alone. At the same time, Collins said he and his team had received about half of the discovery to which they expect to have access.
As previously reported, discovery already asked for by Wagner III’s defense team covers a wide array of materials including autopsy reports for each of the victims, X-rays of those victims, as well as autopsy photos, which in some instances number as high as 140 for an individual victim.
Further materials listed as discovery in documents include, for example, 530 photos from a search of 260 Peterson Rd., Peebles, possibly a previous residence of one of the suspects or victims. The defense team also asked for photos from each of the other murder sites, along with what is named as 3D scans of the multiple murder sites. The discovery list totals the amount of materials asked for in at least two places in the paperwork provided by the court. At one point, the total reaches 2,448 pages, two videos, 18 audio files and two 3D scans. A second running total lists 2,665 pages plus one video.
In addition to discovery issues, defense attorneys for each of the suspects all have filed voluminous pretrial motions. George Wagner III’s attorneys have filed a total of 41 motions so far. More are expected. Many have to do with discovery questions.
On Wednesday, Deering ruled on only three motions, seemingly minor issues such as allowing a court stenographer to be present during behind-the-scenes conversations with the judge. Another motion allowed Wagner III to appear in court wearing civilian clothes as opposed to jail garb and with no visible signs of restraints such as handcuffs. Deering previously granted the same motion to Edward Wagner and other suspects in the overall case.
Each of the four persons charged directly with the murders are being held in separate jails without the possibility of bond.
Reach Tom Corrigan at 740-370- 0715.