Oxygen’s newest true-crime docuseries ‘The Pike County Murders: A Family Massacre’ delves into one of the most horrific crimes in recent times that occurred in Pike County, Ohio. The narrative unfolds around the tragic events of April 2016 when eight members of the Rhoden family, including seven adults and a 16-year-old boy, were ruthlessly shot execution-style. The chilling incidents transpired across three houses and an adjacent camper, with Billy Wagner and her mother, Fredericka Wagner, being deemed prime suspects.
Who Are Fredericka Wagner and Billy Wagner?
During the late 2022 trial of his brother George W. Wagner IV, Edward “Jake” Wagner blamed their father, George “Billy” Wagner III, for teaching him the ways of a criminal from a very young age. From a young age, Billy imparted Jake with basic lock-picking skills at ten and instilled the expertise in stealing trucks. Jake added, “I was taught how to steal trucks. I was very good.” Jake claimed he excelled further, even engaging in arson. According to reports, Jake’s testimony happened under court supervision, off-camera and off-record.
Recounting the events, Jake revealed that at the age of 10 or 11, he actively participated in burning down the family’s garage and later orchestrated the burning of their house for insurance money. On the second occasion, the Wagners filled a crock pot with chicken and placed it on a propane stove, spilling over and causing a fiery eruption. Jake also alleged that his father rejected conventional medical care and resorted to using duct tape and black electric tape for wound mending when he was hurt during adolescence.
Detailing further into their illicit endeavors, Jake recalled how Billy orchestrated the sale of a trailer filled with stolen items in Mexico, yielding $100,000. Upon returning home, he presented his son with a suitcase containing $100,000 in cash for counting, displaying the proceeds from their criminal activities. He even purchased a custom pickup truck for his younger son, Jake, costing $60,000. During the close door testimony, Jake also revealed how Billy concocted the plan to kill the Rhoden family to ensure his grandchild’s custody.
According to Jake, it was Billy who laid down the basics of the plan, instructing him to gather a non-descript vehicle to carry out the killings. It was also Billy’s idea to commit the heinous crime on an overcast night to thwart satellites from picking up images through clouds. After the Wagner family was arrested on murder charges in November 2018, the police looked into other family members to determine their involvement. They quickly stumbled upon Billy’s mother, Fredericka Wagner, as another member allegedly involved in the crime.
Fredericka faced charges of misleading an investigative grand jury regarding the 2016 murders and discussing her testimony against court instructions. The prosecution alleged she lied about the bulletproof vests found at her home, suspected to have been worn by the perpetrators during the killings. However, the matriarch claimed she purchased them on Amazon post-killings for family protection, but the investigators found no record of the purchase. She was placed under electronically monitored house arrest in November 2018, pending her trial.
What Happened to Fredericka Wagner and Billy Wagner?
In late January 2019, Fredericka’s attorney requested a modification of her house arrest conditions to allow Fredericka to attend Lucasville Mission Church on Sundays. The proposal included leaving home from 1:30 to 4:30 pm for service attendance from 2:00 to 3:00 pm and teaching Sunday school from 3:00 to 4:00 pm. A regular attendee since 1976, the septuagenarian missed church only during her husband’s illness. Her pastor emphasized her spiritual strength and the impact on her Sunday school class in a supporting letter.
The state dismissed charges against Fredericka, then 76, on June 26, 2019. Denying involvement, she pleaded not guilty to obstruction and perjury charges. The prosecution attributed the dismissal to the state’s inability to meet the speedy trial requirement, leaving room for potential refiled charges pending further investigation. Providing eBay receipts to prove she bought the bulletproof vests after the murder to protect her family, Fredericka claimed she made a mistake at first, blaming it on her age. She asserted, “I made a mistake. I’m nearly 77 years old.”
Fredericka added, “Nowadays, it seems the general opinion is you’re guilty until proven innocent. I never lied about anything. And as my attorney will tell you, it was dismissed because I was innocent. They have no evidence against me.” Fredericka, now 79, presumably lives in her Crystal Springs Home and continues to visit her Lucasville Mission Church. Billy is set to go on trial on May 6, 2024, on 22 charges, including eight counts of aggravated murder, after a court disregarded his motion for a venue change on November 20, 2023.