Grandmas Accused of Trying to Cover Up Family's Role in Massacre of Rival Clan

The murders of the Rhoden family, who were killed in April 2016, are believed to be connected to a bitter custody dispute.

Two grandmothers have been charged for their alleged role in helping cover up a rival family's massacre

Rita Jo Newcomb, 65, and Fredericka Carol Wagner, 76, are both charged with obstructing justice and perjury, while Newcomb alone faces a forgery charge as well. The charges stem from allegedly lying to a grand jury, officials said. 

Both have pleaded not guilty.

The two women were questioned in connection to the killings of eight members of the Rhoden family in Pike County, Ohio, in April 2016.

Wagner's son, George "Billy" Wagner III, and Newcomb's daughter, Angela Wagner, have both been charged with aggravated murder, as have their two sons, 27-year-old George Wagner IV and 26-year-old Edward "Jake" Wagner.

The slayings, which prosecutors described as meticulously planned, occurred on April 22, when the eight family members were shot to death in four homes located on the family's farm. 

The dead were identified as: Hannah Gilley, 20; Christopher Rhoden, 40; Christopher Rhoden, Jr., 16; Clarence "Frankie" Rhoden, 20; Dana Rhoden, 37; Gary Rhoden, 38; Hanna Rhoden, 19, and Kenneth Rhoden, 44.

They were all in their beds and were apparently shot as they slept, police said. An infant, a 6-month-old baby and a toddler were spared in the slayings.

Jake Wagner had a daughter with Hanna Rhoden, and it's believed that a bitter custody battle over that child motivated the killings in part. She was not home when the attacks were carried out and is now in protective care.

"There certainly was obsession with custody, obsession with control of children," Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said at a press conference. 

"This is just the most bizarre story I've ever seen," he added, saying it "has been by far the longest, most complex and labor-intensive investigation the Ohio Attorney General's Office has ever undertaken."

Early in the investigation, the Wagner family members said they were friends with the victims and considered them family, according to news reports at the time. Angela, the matriarch, referred to the killers as "monsters."

They have all denied any involvement in the killings.