Edward “Jake” Wagner — the 24-year-old who fathered a daughter with Hannah Rhoden and is one of four people investigators want more information about after the murders of Rhoden and seven others in Pike County — had nothing to do with the April 22, 2016, massacre, his grandmother said.
Investigators searched the family’s current and former property — including grandmother Fredericka Wagner’s Flying W Farm — last month. On Monday, they asked the public for more information about the Wagners.
“They have nothing,” Fredericka Wagner said Tuesday in a Dayton Daily News interview. “Their searches have turned up zilch. Nothing. And they aren’t going to either because Jake had nothing to do with it.”
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has not named any of the Wagners as suspects in the case. But he’s asked the public to cough up more information about Jake Wagner, his mother Angela Wagner, 46, his father, George “Billy” Wagner III, 46, and brother George Wagner IV, 25. All, he said, are believed to live in Alaska.
DeWine’s request was met with so many calls to Alaska authorities, the Anchorage Police Department begged residents to stop calling.
“As the result of a recent release by the Attorney General in Ohio about a homicide investigation in Pike County with ties to Alaska, the Anchorage Police Department has been inundated with 911 calls,” the department posted on Facebook. “Please don’t call the Anchorage Police Department about possible sightings of the individuals mentioned in the Ohio release.”
The request prompted a “significant” number of tips, said DeWine’s spokesman, Dan Tierney, who would not say if Ohio law enforcement are coordinating with Alaska authorities.
Angela Wagner has not responded to requests for comment via Facebook.
Life in Alaska
According to interviews and a review of the family’s social media, the family appears to have settled, at least for now, on Alaska’s mountainous Kenai Peninsula — roughly half the size of Ohio. The peninsula’s largest city, Kenai, is about three hours southwest of Anchorage and has a population of about 7,100.
The family — according to Kelly Cinereski, a pastor friend in Seward, a two-hour drive from Kenai — has long sought to live in Alaska and made three trips there in the past decade.
This trip, the visit could be permanent.
“I am looking for a 3 bedroom that is pet friendly or a owner finance house,” Angela Wagner’s Facebook account posted June 3 on a group called “Kenai & Soldotna Home & Apartment Rental Search.”
Cinereski said the family attended Sunday service at his son’s church in Kenai. After speaking Monday with the Daily News, his church’s Facebook account posted a message.
“Good evening church, this is pastor Kelly,” the post reads. “I just wanted you all to know that I am aware of the current situation involving the Wagner family. The lead investigator in southern Ohio does not have any evidence that the Wagners are guilty in this case.”
Without identifying the investigator, the post said he “has my phone number and I have his.”
“I talked with the Wagner family today and they have assured me that this is just an accusation. So we will just leave it at that,” the post said. “Please Pray God’s will be done.”
Cinereski told the Daily News the Wagners fished during their previous trips to Alaska.
The peninsula is a fisherman’s paradise. The Kenai River, which winds through the peninsula, is the state’s most heavily fished river and is filled with salmon, trout and pike. Fishing and hunting appear to be Wagner family pastimes, as Jake, George III and Angela each possessed either Ohio hunting or fishing licenses over the past decade.
Angela Wagner’s Facebook cover photo, also updated on June 3, shows what appears to be the idyllic outdoor Alaska setting: a snow-capped peak jutting between blue waters and skies.
“That was Alaska,” she wrote. “No humidity cool crisp air clean water.”
Life in Ohio
While rural, the borough is more affluent than much of southern Ohio. Unemployment is lower on the peninsula. Census data show the median household income is $63,684 compared to $42,778 in Adams County, Ohio, where the family lived.
Bernie Brown, who owns an Ohio 41 site in Adams County visited by investigators last month during their search, told WCPO-TV 9 in Cincinnati that Jake Wagner sometimes worked for him fixing cars.
The week before the search, the Wagners had dropped items off at the property, he said. Investigators then searched two large trailers and took one smaller utility trailer owned by the Wagners.
Investigators last month also searched property formerly owned by Jake and George Wagner IV.
Then, abruptly, there was an arrest — of James Manley, the brother of victim Dana Manley Rhoden, on charges of tampering with evidence and vandalism for allegedly destroying a state GPS tracker on his truck.
Manley’s father, Leonard Manley, accused authorities of attaching the tracker on the truck because of text messages allegedly exchanged between Jake Wagner and James Manley the night of the murders.
Days before DeWine’s announcement, Jake Wagner told the Cincinnati Enquirer the text messages “did not happen.”
Ohio authorities ask those who have information in the case to call the Pike County Sheriff’s Office at 740-947-2111. Authorities said information provided will remain confidential, and a $10,000 reward is still in effect.