Fredericka Wagner, 76, of Lucasville, appeared in the Pike County Court of Common Pleas on Thursday for a pretrial and motion hearing.
On Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018, George “Billy” Wagner III, 47, his wife Angela Wagner, 48, and their sons George Wagner IV, 27, and Edward “Jake” Wagner, 26, were arrested for the murders of eight members of the Rhoden and Gilley families in Pike County on April 22, 2016.
On Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, Fredericka Wagner, George “Billy” Wagner III’s mother, and Rita Newcomb, 65, Angela Wagner’s mother, were arraigned on charges of obstructing justice and perjury for “allegedly misleading investigators” who were investigating the Rhoden/Gilley homicides. In addition, Newcomb is charged with forgery. (See related story.)
Wagner, who pleaded not guilty to all charges at her arraignment in November and was placed under house arrest, appeared before Judge Randy Deering on Thursday, where Wagner’s attorney James Owen argued that his client should be provided with a full transcript of her testimony before the grand jury.
Special Prosecutor Angela Canepa said that is not typically handed over by prosecution without a court order.
“I believe the agreement today is that we will draft an order for the court which permits the state to transcribe the portion of testimony that relates to the perjury and then I believe that we will be briefing as to whether or not they are entitled to other portions of that testimony,” Canepa said.
Owen cited a rule and stated that the defendant is entitled to any written or recorded statements by the defendant including grand jury testimony by the defendant.
“Fredericka, because she is a decent person who is falsely accused of being on the wrong side of the law, testified at length before the grand jury before she hired me — I think for several hours,” Owen said. “And our position is we’re entitled to all her grand jury testimony.”
Owen said that the defense would like a trial date as soon as possible and asked that they be provided with all of Wagner’s testimony and not just the portion offered by the state. He also mentioned the context of the grand jury questions, stating that Wagner does not have good hearing and indicating that she may have had difficulty understanding the questions.
Canepa indicated that the state can have their brief on the matter filed by the end of the month.
The defense can then respond to the state’s brief prior to a ruling.
In a bill of particulars filed by the state on Thursday, the state alleges that Wagner made a false statement “regarding bullet proof vests belonging to George Washington Wagner III, obtained from a search warrant of defendant’s residence on May 13, 2017.”
At Thursday’s hearing, the defendant’s motion to modify the conditions of her house arrest was also discussed. If granted, the modification would allow her to travel from her residence to nearby Crystal Springs, which houses people with developmental disabilities, for the purpose of managing crises there on an as-needed basis. The amendment would also allow her to attend church services at a congregation near her home.
The state has asked to investigate to obtain accurate information concerning Wagner’s connection to Crystal Springs and the church, and Deering indicated that the state has until the end of the month to provide specific objections to the motion.
“The information that we have is that Ms. Wagner was the administrator of Crystal Springs at the time of her arrest; she is no longer,” Canepa said, adding that, according to the state’s information, even when Wagner was the administrator she was not there on a day-to-day basis.
Also, at Thursday’s pretrial, the state requested a gag order so that those involved with the case cannot speak to reporters about it.
Owen objected to the gag order and said that the day the indictments were issued the state “had a big news conference, they put out all this false information, they made false allegations about Fredericka.”
Owen said that at some point and time the defense may want to talk to the press “just to correct the record,” and he accused the state of tainting the jury pool.
Deering asked the state to provide a written argument for the gag order that he will consider.
“Just for the record, your honor ... the only thing that we announced were indictments, and, as this court knows, indictments are merely allegations. They are not proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” Canepa said. “There was nothing else said, and there will be nothing more said on behalf of the state, so there will be no reason to ‘respond.’”
The next pretrial for Fredericka Wagner is scheduled for March 28.