On Thursday, Edward “Jake” Wagner, formerly of the Peebles area accepted a plea deal for the murders of eight members of the Rhoden family. The guilty plea came five years to the day after the murders, the largest investigation of its kind in state history.
Wagner also plead guilty to gun specifications, conspiracy, burglary, possession of dangerous weapons, and tampering with evidence. Prosecutors have dropped the possibility of the death penalty, even though the state has a moratorium on the death penalty and hasn’t executed anyone in several years.
The victims were: Christopher Rhoden, Sr.; Frankie Rhoden; Dana Roden; Gary Rhoden; Hanna May Rhoden; Kenneth Rhoden; and Christopher Rhoden. Authorities say that Jake Wagner himself pulled the trigger in five of the murders.
According to court documents, the plea deal revealed that Wagner was trying to force Hanna Mae Rhoden, to sign forged court documents giving over custody of the child that she shared with him. In late 2015, Wagner hacked into Hanna Mae Rhoden’s social media account and read messages stating that she would never give up custody of the daughter and “they’d have to kill” her before she signed the documents. After reading those messages, Jake Wagner went to work plotting and preparing for the murders. Officials say that he purchased ammunition, magazines, and brass catchers to collect shell casings rather than leaving them as evidence. He also purchased materials to make silencers for guns. In addition, he used equipment such as cell phone jammers and video surveillance equipment to study the habits of his victims.
On April 22, 2016, he carried out his plan, resulting in the death of eight Rhodens in three different homes.
The Wagner family lived near Peebles at the time of the murders but later moved to Alaska. Over two years later, four members of the family, including Jake Wagner, were arrested, and charged with the murders.
Wagner has agreed to testify against other members of his family, all of which have plead not guilty.