Man Still Facing Death Penalty in 8 Murders as Brother Says He Didn't Kill Anyone

One of four people linked to a series of murders in southern Ohio from five years ago may still receive the death penalty, after a request from his attorneys to have aggravated murder charges dismissed was denied Wednesday.

George Wagner IV is facing the most serious charges, including the possibility of capital punishment, if found guilty for his alleged role in the murders of eight members of the Rhoden family. His brother Jake Wagner, who was also charged in the crime, reportedly told prosecutors that George didn't shoot anyone.

The 2016 murders of seven adults and one teenage boy, with two babies and another young child left unharmed, were said to be related to custody issues of a child Jake Wagner had fathered with one of the victims in the Rhoden family.

Jake Wagner pleaded guilty to the 23 charges he faces in September, including admitting to killing five of the victims, in exchange for the removal of the death penalty as a possible punishment.

The brothers and their parents, Angela Wagner and George "Billy" Wagner III, were arrested for the murders in November 2018.

At the time of their arrests, authorities alleged the group planned the killings that took place at four separate houses for weeks before they happened, studying the Rhoden family's habits and the layouts of their homes, as well as tampering with their phones.

"I just might tell you this is just the most bizarre story I've ever seen in being involved in law enforcement," said then-Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine in 2018.

Ohio Rhoden Murders, George Wagner Family
George Wagner IV, center, is escorted out of the courtroom after his arraignment at the Pike County Courthouse, in Waverly, Ohio on Nov. 28, 2018. Ohio Judge Randy Deering on Wednesday denied a request by lawyers for Wagner to dismiss his aggravated murder charges, thereby keeping the death penalty on the table for the man accused in the slayings of eight people from a single family. Robert McGraw/The Chillicothe Gazette via AP Pool File

Pike County Judge Randy Deering denied the request.

Jake Wagner also gave a detailed statement to authorities about the killings and agreed to testify against the other members of his family.

John Parker, an attorney for George Wagner, said that Jake Wagner told prosecutors that his brother did not shoot any of the victims.

"He did not pull the trigger once," Parker said.

Prosecutors opposed the move to dismiss the aggravated murder charges against George Wagner. Special prosecutor Angela Canepa said they don't know with certainty that George Wagner didn't shoot anybody.

George and Jake Wagner's mother, Angela Wagner, pleaded guilty in September to helping plan the slayings, and prosecutors said she gave them new information. In exchange, prosecutors agreed to drop aggravated murder charges against her.

Her plea deals also included an agreement to testify against George Wagner IV and his father, who has pleaded not guilty — if those cases go to trial.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.