( Pike County ) - A major development on the five year anniversary of the murders of eight members of the Rhoden family.
In court Thursday, Jake Wagner, one of the four defendants accused in that 2016 mass murder, pleaded guilty to all 23 counts against him, including eight counts of aggravated murder. He avoids the death penalty, but now faces a possible maximum prison term of eight life-without-parole sentences plus 160 years in prison and a $370,000 fine.
Prosecutors and the judge laid out all the counts in the roughly two-hour-long hearing, and Wagner confirmed he was removing his not guilty plea and admitting to all charges. Along with aggravated murder, those charges include a variety of gun specifications, burglary, conspiracy, and unlawful sexual conduct with a minor. Years before the killings, Wagner fathered a child with one of the victims, an underage Hanna Rhoden, and investigators say it was a custody dispute over that child that was the motivation for the mass murder.
Wagner's father, Billy, his mother, Angela, and his brother, George IV, are all facing similar charges. In exchange for making them no longer elligible for a possible death sentence, Jake Wagner has agreed to testify against them.