Police in the US state of Ohio arrested a husband and wife and their two sons Tuesday over the “meticulously planned” murder of eight people — seven members of the same family and a fiancee.
George Wagner III, Angela Wagner and their sons George Wagner IV and Edward Wagner are accused of carrying out the April 2016 massacre in Peebles, a rural village 80 miles (130 kilometers) east of Cincinnati.
“Members of one family conspired, planned, carried out and then allegedly covered up their violent act to wipe out members of another family,” Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader told a news conference.
Police found seven bodies, each with a bullet to the head, in three separate homes, and an eighth at a separate site. Authorities suspect many were killed in their sleep.
The seven family members killed were Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40; Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16; Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 20; Dana Rhoden, 37; Gary Rhoden, 38; Hanna Rhoden, 19; and Kenneth Rhoden, 44. The other victim, 20-year-old Hannah “Hazel” Gilley, was engaged to Clarence Rhoden.
The shooters however spared three young children: a newborn baby found lying next to her dead mother, as well as two others who were six months and three years old.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said the motive was related to child custody, without clarifying further.
Officials accused the Wagners of an elaborate cover-up, including tampering with cell phones and security camera footage.
“They did this quickly, coldly, calmly and very carefully. But not carefully enough,” Reader said.
“They left traces. They left a trail: The parts to build a silencer, the forged documents, the cameras, the cellphones, all that they tampered with, and the lies, all the lies they told us.”
Each of the suspects faces eight counts of aggravated murder, and they could get the death penalty if convicted.
Police also arrested Rita Newcomb, identified as Angela Wagner’s mother, and Fredericka Wagner, George Wagner III’s mother for helping cover-up the crime.