Motions were granted in the Pike County Court of Common Pleas on Monday for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to withdraw appearance of counsel from two of the county’s capital murder cases.
Appearing in court on Monday were George Wagner III, 49, and his son, Edward Jacob Wagner, 27.
Angela Canepa, a prosecutor for the county’s four capital murder cases, recently resigned her position at the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. She was then appointed special prosecutor for the cases and is still working with Pike County Prosecuting Attorney Rob Junk.
Junk stated on Monday that the state does not have an objection to the attorney general’s office’s motion to withdraw, and he mentioned that Canepa has been appointed as special prosecutor and that another attorney, Andrew Wilson, will also be appointed to assist the prosecution.
“I have been assured that any information that we would need for the case will be given to us,” Junk said.
He also stated that the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) will still be working with the prosecution on the cases.
Carol Hamilton O’Brien, of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, addressed the court concerning the motion to withdraw appearance of counsel.
“This case has been Prosecutor Junk’s all along,” O’Brien said, and she stated in response to questions by one of Edward Wagner’s attorneys concerning any conflict between the attorney general’s office and the case’s prosecution that “there are no substantive issues in this case that are in disagreement between the way Mr. Junk and Ms. Canepa are handling it and how the AG thinks it should be handled.”
“This case, as everyone knows, is very, very important to the people of Pike County, to the family members, as well as to the state of Ohio, and it is important to have unified folks working together like Prosecutor Junk and Ms. Canepa have been doing,” O’Brien said.
“In the AG’s words, Ms. Canepa leaving our office has absolutely no indication of her ability or her integrity, and no one should look at it that way in regard to anything she does,” O’Brien stated.
“Given the dynamic of the case and the obvious right of the elected prosecutor, Mr. Junk, to choose his team, and the representation it won’t slow the case down and the representation that it’s not going to interfere, for example, with discovery, we stand ready to accept the court’s ruling without necessarily endorsing or embracing everything Miss O’Brien just said as it relates to her characterization of the situation between her office and Ms. Canepa,” Edward Wagner’s attorney, Gregory Myers, stated.
George Wagner III’s attorneys filed a motion on June 15 to grant their client “a reasonable bond with restrictions in place.” A hearing on that motion is scheduled for Aug. 6. Wagner’s attorney, Mark Collins, indicated at Monday’s hearing that he would have witnesses at the Aug. 6 hearing on bond.
Four members of the Wagner family have been charged with murder in the 2016 killings of eight members of the Rhoden and Gilley families. Charged in addition to George Wagner III and Edward Jacob Wagner were Edward’s mother, Angela Wagner, and his brother George Wagner IV.
Motions to withdraw counsel have also been filed by the attorney general’s office in the cases of Angela Wagner and George Wagner IV. Angela Wagner has a pretrial scheduled for Wednesday, June 24, and George Wagner IV has a pretrial scheduled for Tuesday, June 30.