Rita Newcomb, 65, charged with perjury, obstruction of justice and three counts of forgery in relation to the 2016 murders of eight people in Pike County, will go before a jury Oct. 21.
Although she is currently free on house arrest, phone calls Newcomb allegedly made to her daughter, Angela Wagner, may cost the Newcomb her freedom between Aug. 28 and October.
Pike County Court of Common Pleas Judge Randy Deering set Aug. 28 as a day to hear oral arguments on the prosecution’s motion to revoke Newcomb’s bond.
Filed the same day as what was to be Newcomb’s last pretrial hearing Thursday, the prosecution’s motion for denial of bail reads in part: “Defendant engaged in behavior that is in violation of the condition of her bond. Following a request made at defendant’s January 10 pretrial hearing this court ordered ‘the defendant shall refrain from all contact directly or indirectly with … Angela Joe Wagner.’”
According to prosecutors, there are recorded phone calls from the Delaware County Jail, where Wagner is incarcerated with no chance of bond for her trial on numerous charges, most notably eight capital counts of aggravated murder.
During Thursday’s pretrial, Newcomb stated she does not have caller ID. However, Special Prosecutor Angela Canepa told the court the motion regarding revocation of bond was not based on “inconsequential conversations… These are lengthy discussions where they acknowledge they should not be talking.”
Deering said he takes very seriously any violations of the terms of Newcomb’s release, but added conversations between Newcomb and Wagner, in which they discussed the case, would exacerbate the situation.
For his part, defense attorney Franklin Gerlach filed a motion to dismiss all counts of forgery pending against his client, arguing a Pike County court is not the proper venue for those charges.
The prosecution alleges Newcomb helped forge custody documents relating to the daughter murder suspect Edward Wagner fathered with murder victim Hanna Rhoden.
Edward “Jake” Wagner is Newcomb’s grandson.
According to the motion Gerlach filed, “the custody documents in question in the indictment do not indicate where the alleged forgery took place. At all times relevant, defendant was a resident in Scioto County and did not have transportation to Pike County.”
Gerlach goes on to claim an attorney for the prosecution told defense counsel the documents were taken to Newcomb’s home in Scioto County “where they were allegedly notarized by the defendant.”
Again, the motion states there is no indication on the documents as to where they were signed or notarized.
“Defendant respectfully requests the court to issue an order dismissing counts one, two and three of the indictment as venue is not in Pike County, Ohio,” Gerlach’s motion concludes.
Gerlach and prosecutors still apparently are arguing over discovery issues and defense requests for interrogatories, or written questions formally put to one party or another in a legal case. If the prosecution denies supplying answers to the defendant’s interrogatories, Gerlach is asking the court to prevent the prosecution from using certain evidence.
As previously reported, Newcomb’s trial may hold the key to the mystery of the Rhoden murders. Prior to Deering putting in place a gag order preventing anyone connected with the case from speaking to the media, prosecutors, including then Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, indicated custody of Edward Wagner and Hanna Rhoden’s daughter possibly was the motive for the murders.
Reach Tom Corrigan at 740-370-0715.