Episode 4- The Houses on Union Hill Road
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It is this is orchestrated if you orchestrate something that goes to planning everybody understands and their position in the orchestra they understand what notes to hit. They have a specific purpose. And the job they know the area and they know the pray they know the nature of these individuals. Hell they know where their homes are. They know were security cameras. Are they know what they have to defeat to get past these whether it'd be locked timing wilted the bed. Tom they know all this. That's why this is so shocking. When you begin to think about it is the level of orchestration involved. A pull this thing off road. This is the painted massacre returned to pay county season two episode for the houses on union hill road. I'm courtney armstrong television producer at katy studios with stephanie. Lie decker and jeff. Shane hundred investigators and police officers have contributed so far to this ongoing investigation. Today they say they received eight hundred. Eighty three tips conducted. Four hundred sixty five interviews did thirty eight search warrants and sixty cyber extractions. I'll question this has been by far the longest most complex and labor intensive investigation. The ohio attorney general's office has ever undertake as investigator. I've worked Any number of mass killings. i've never covered these just. That's coroner distinguished professor and criminal forensics expert joseph morgan. It is not a normal thing to walk into. House and symbol and mass. It's something that waters only apocalyptic from the outset. The sheer magnitude of the case posed huge investigative hurdles for the pike. County sheriff's office johnny. It's it's a rural county. Of course they don't have a lot of money. It's not judgment just of when you begin to think about those detectives that were from this little area. They are pipe from pike. County sheriff's department this something they'd never worn witness to it leads to limitations in your ability to processing so it is Herculean under undertaking for for these investigators and less than a month into the investigation authorities made would seem to many leg. An unusual decision has already begun to move the homes where eight members of the road and family were found shot to death last month in pike. County ohio the judge has authorized his people to load the four mobile homes and transport them about four and a half miles north to the investigation command center in waverly to preserve the crime seeds while we talked with joseph morgan. We looked over aerial photos of the crime scenes before the mobile homes were removed. They're all we have to go on as no crime scene photos have been released. There's a mockup. Showing the placement of the properties on our instagram. The first few images were of the property where chris. Senior and frankie rodents trailers were located. Jeff got morgan thoughts on pike counties relocation strategy looking at these aerial photos while we're talking about it. What really struck me. They lived in trailers but these look more like homes that are in the ground. That aren't going anywhere to me. That the crazy is the most important part and moving them. That seems like that would not be so easy after the termination of this case. And when it's finally these cases are all adjudicated. I'm gonna want to study this from a crime scene perspective. Because i want to learn how did this i wanna teach this because if they did it effectively. It's something that somebody could write an academic paper on. I mean it's it's that big a deal. If you look at this image you would have to detach that mobile home completely. And it's probably a foundational structure so it's it's at least has a cinderblock foundation that is built around the thing so that they can build a stick build a structure around it and then attach it to the mobile home. Just the sheer logistics of detaching this thing from the ground. I've certainly you know never worked a case that involved. Multiple mobile homes that where people had been dwelling for years that are plumbed and have electricity run to them and have foundations and that they're just lifted up the crowning taken from their this monumental task and order silicate this. You gotta make sure that nothing is going to be disrupted in transit because everything is relative relative. There's distance relationships. There's time relationships because things degrade change. We've got bullet holes. Well this is not like going into a static home. It's moving back and forth as it's going down the road. So it's shifting well what is it shifts just a few millimeters relative to if you're trying to pull trajectories bullets so to that end. It really gives you pause to think. Why was it that you wanted to move it from this location. By any measure investigating the road and murders was a massive undertaking. Eight bodies spread out across four bloody crime scenes and soon after the victims were found ohio bureau of criminal investigation and fbi agents were called in to help lead the charge. But according to. Joseph morgan before the rodents mobile homes were moved. It was imperative that authorities analyze the scenes in their original state's viewing that body in the context and environment which is found. That's where the tale is told at that point and you have to allow the body to tell you. That story made me personal space. Now they'll say in bed composition. Someone walked up on them when they were unaware. Maybe they were sleeping at close range like that a single round into the back of their head. Well i don't want to move manipulate the body until it's tom to remove it from scene after spending measured and examined for things like postal changes and documented foot graphically. I don't change the body at all. I want to see what the body is telling me. Current the bodies lead biggest piece of evidence that you have because that is obviously in this case the target of what individuals were strived debts where the most force is brought to bear this where the muslim violence takes place. That's where you have the most transference it's gonna take place from one. Object to the body of from one body to another body the violence perpetrated by the alleged. Assailant's the wagner is in the road in case was unusually brutal thirty two gunshot wounds between eight victims. All the one shot in the head and the evidence collected on the scene and in the lab will all contribute to chronicling what transpired on the night of april twenty. first twenty. sixteen in light of jack. wagner's plea deal will be integral for the prosecution's case against the other three wagner's murders exactly five years. After the road and murders in pike county one of four defendants jake wagner is pleading guilty to all counts in exchange. He avoids the death penalty and will serve multiple life sentences with no chance of parole his father mother and brother are similarly charged and pleaded not guilty to help them avoid a possible death sentence. Prosecutors say jake will testify against them. I spoke with joseph mckellar about how jake wagner's plea will impact upcoming trials unique understand the larger narrative. Here he's now on the outside jacobs on the outside. He's no longer for all intents and purposes part of the family. He is going to be a state's witness at this time. So you're going to have defense counsel. They want to prevent the state from validating. Anything that this young man has to say. So jake's alrighty pled guilty. He's already implicated his family. Why is how these murders happened important. Now they want to try to either put all the blame on him. Say that are our defendants had nothing to do with us whatsoever. It's all him and he suddenly got a guilty conscience. Had you know what we say a come to jesus moment inside roll over on everything and it's all him all bomb sell. It doesn't matter what we think what's gonna matter is what the jury thinks. Moving forward at the end of the day everybody else will be able to draw their conclusions. But how in the world is this going to be presented to the jerry. You're gonna need play bill to keep up with all of the all of various permutations here because if you got you know four different parties here. I'm including jake in this and what he's saying to to prosecution you've got four different parties here That are giving you different scenarios. It's gonna be tasked to someone to try to make sense of all this and that someone that that that group of people are going to be the jury it will be explained before the court and people in that jury box and before the judge they will say. Well we know that at this hour on the twenty first this occurred and then moving forward this is when the bodies were found will what occurred between these moments in top studying the aerial photos of the crime scenes. Stephanie put into perspective just how overwhelming task it is putting the story of the road murders together to seeing these photos now firsthand walking through them with you only offers up more questions for us not a small operation. This was huge. The volume of this case is one of the striking things for me. I think you know out. With every case that i cover. I don't recall case like this. That's blood sub and it is spread far and wide. There's so many pieces that have to be put into place this year. Leapfrogging from this bloodbath to another bloodbath. The forensics alone or highly complicated just from a geographic distribution standpoint is like a beautiful mirror. Okay that someone had hanging on the wall and somebody with specific intent went in and destroyed this mirror and crashed it down into thousands and thousands of pieces. And then is your job to make sense of these broken pieces and try to put it back together not necessarily to make it usable again but to try to understand what happened what affected its destruction. To what degree is it destroyed. What what instrumentality may have destroyed. And what the timing was like on this. How long has this thing been destroyed. Spoke with joseph morgan about the importance of time line. Multiple homicide case. Tomlin is essential here because you know we just have these bits and pieces coming out about the order. Ah death. they're going to be really focused on the body and changes in the body and traumas the bodies sustained. And all the things i think that. That's that's something that's critical as we studied the aerial images of the crime scenes along with the autopsy reports. Morgan tried to piece together the chronology for us because his body was in a more advanced state of decomposition. It's been speculated that victim. Chris road and senior was the killer's first victim. So we started by looking at the layout of his trailer. Joseph pointed out could have been the killers way in here. He is talking to stephanie. The a poor parking pad right there. And there's like assad walk that extends up to. that's a ramp. yeah walking up into this little walkway into the porch area and therefore into the front door. There's this entire runway which was likely where the assailants entered cracked. So that brings me to this point. How many locks would have had to have been defeated on that door in order to gain entrance. And how can you gain interest to the door without making noise but if you're going into that porch it also speaks to the fact that they did have multiple trained attack. Dogs surveilling this area. Why didn't those attack dogs attack. Because there's a quite a bit of runway for you to get up to that porch and a possible that they knocked on the door. They knew one another. They family was very close or had very close bonds angelo. Add no. is there a woman imam. So wouldn't you go to the door a little more. Even if you were at odds if the dads for example christina and maybe billy wagner odds over something. We've heard this but you know his wife is there and july. Oh what's happening more likely to open your door. It seems implausible that they would draw them to the door. You know it makes me. It really makes me think. Why would they be in the bedroom. And how did the perpetrators get into the bedroom without these guys know that tells me that maybe there was a hidden key. It does make sense about perhaps a hidden key. Certainly we don't know this is fat. This is speculation but we do know that they were running serious surveillance on the family. They have cameras at each of the locations in the homes. Really doing some top level surveillance on the family and jake. The youngest son was there quite a bit because he was sharing custody with the youngest daughter and for a long period of time they would tick tock between homes you get to know the location in the area very very. Well just speculated about why. Chris senior may have been targeted. I he apparently was identified as primary target or at least as a primary threat in our language. And you hear this in the news media quite a bit on television shows that there really is truly something that is to his. Kill chris seniors case. He shot nine times. What do you make of the brutality of that. It kind of begs that question. Well either you view that person as a threat. Maybe see that they're going to charge you. Maybe you have an awareness of what their potential for violences and that you want to prevent that. There's evidence that he attempted or reacted at least to the point where he raised his arm. He's taken one round in his right forearm but this is the part that is very very curious. It says that around pass through a door. I don't know which door he was in a bedroom. Maybe it was the door to his bedroom. And maybe he was hiding behind a door but then it goes on to say that that round intern passed into his body. So we're we're learning just in the sequencing with With the senior among among the road and clan that there was a lot of firepower that was essentially directed toward him. You know he resided in a trailer with gary. So we can samoa's that christina was first then gary would have had to been second because they occupy the same essentially saying space. They had separate bedrooms. But gary didn't receive the same amount of attention that christina. He was only shot three times but these three gunshot wounds. He sustained two or to the head. And it's kind of nonspecific in the descriptors. We know that one was in the face and this is kind of a theme that that you see running through the nature of all of these killings and off on that kind of interesting because anytime someone has shot an individual in the face from a profile standpoint that gives you the attitude that the individual is looking at them. That's year when their fire upon. We're going to take a quick break here. 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That's modus diamond dot com Victims christine and gary rodents crime scene potentially held cachet of clues for investigators. We know that the scene in particular was very bloody. Okay because we know that. Chris senior was shot multiple tom so when we examine examined scene that is a treasure trove of evidence collection there. If someone has tried to clean themselves clean. Their hands washed out a weapon. Maybe try to repair an injury of their own. You've got evidence sitting in the drain and this is something they would have had to have accounted for so all of the drain traps everything within there would have had to have been secured. What if got flushed down the toilet. Well you know because now that's gonna go into septic tank since this is so isolated. They're not gonna be city sewer system logistically. It's a frigging nightmare. I mean for a crime scene person. It is an absolute nightmare. You have to make sure that all of your bases are are covered. Outside chris boden senior's home was potentially even more evidence. Here comes the big part that portrait there which is a point of egress. You need to keep that in mind. That is a point through which somebody entered this damn dwelling. Just let that sink in for a second. That's gotta be detached and moved now. It looks like they have a concrete slab parking area. This actually very nice. It's got a trailer truck. A great truck in a small car that sparked right by the sidewalk in the sidewalk is poured. Concrete is well. that's all going to contain potential evidence. We know that that is an important piece of. It's almost footprint right. That has so much potential dna or blood or something that seeps into it potentially blood evidence more than likely they traipse out of that house this would have required a herculean effort upon the authorities. There as we mentioned crime scene photos were never released there. Were also very few ground photos of the surrounding area because the entire road was closed to the public however the aerial shots provide valuable insight into the crime scenes. Most likely the killers then moved to the trailer. Just a few hundred yards away. Where frankie roden and his fiancee. Hannah gilliam were living with frankie's toddler and the couple of six month. Old baby boy. I'd always pictured it much further apart from one another. It looks as though and again this is an aerial shot. You could on foot run from chris. Seniors home to frankie where he and hannah where sleeping making it up to two franken. Hannah would be. That's no effort whatsoever. If you've been surveilling the area and keeping you know detailed notes on movements of people in this sort of thing. It wouldn't be a problem at all in order to facilitate that. The proximity of the homes most likely forced the killers to utilize some critical tools. Silencers we know from courtroom testimony that a homemade silencer was found at a property owned by the wagner's having silencers when these crime scenes are so close together. Seems like they would have to and it does sound as though from what. We've researched that frankie road in and his fiancee hannah gilly in their three year. Old son frankie's three year old son. They were sleeping at the time. Absolutely and the other thing is this is not something that you would do in the dark. You want to make sure. Because you're you're going there to specifically execute these people to kill them. You wanna make sure that you're going to shoot them so unless you you've got flashlights. In your hand which they bear will might have. You're gonna flip the switch soon as you walk through the door lights which is right there. The element of surprise allowed the killers to get with an intimate range of their victims was a gunshot wound. You don't think about that as being intimate but if you start scoring headshots particularly multiple headshots you know that there is kind of a close approximation of the perpetrator to the victim and that particular case so it tells a different tale and would gunshot wants to head particularly multiple ones. You want to think about well. Where are they shot in the head if it is an execution style to the back of the head. That's one thing that. I'm not saying that the person is being humane this doing it but they want it over with and done as quickly as possible when you start talking about shooting people in the face. This is something different particularly if it's multiple tops first off the individual has the potential to visualize you doing and you're visualizing them that brings it up to another level execution style means from the back of the head so you don't have make eye contact with your victim which makes sense classic interpretation of it like when i'm talking to somebody a fellow death investigator fellow friends excise person if i say it was an execution style shooting automatically for me. I would assume for most of my colleagues. We're gonna think okay. They're probably shot in the oxford. Which if you put your hand you know your fingers on the side of your head and you fill it big not the back of your skull. That's your oxford where you're sara bellum dwells where your promo brain dwells in there's mercy there's mercy in docs foot back there you know why there's mercy because if you fire into that area it's almost an instantaneous but if you start shooting people all over the body and you do it multiple toms and particularly if you approach and then shoot them in the face. There's no guarantee they're dead instantly. No no guarantee whatsoever. According to morgan the killers likely traveled a mile and a half up the road. Where victims dina. Chris junior and hannah road and lift. I can't imagine that dana hoses the same threat level. Say for instance as chris senior chris pretty robust county guy. Big guy worked outdoors with cars and whatnot. He's familiar with weapons. I would imagine he could pose a threat but this mother living in her trailer with her kids. What threat did she did. She pose is she. The focus of a tremendous amount of anger. Well when you combine the fact that they have committed overkill here with the sheeting her in her skull so many times and then they moved to shoot her in a manner in which could potentially disfigure her the seems to me almost a messaging that sent out in the people that are portrayed s purpose to them. We have the other hanna. And what kind of person could stand over a young woman and fire round into her face while staring at her. And her baby you're visualizing this. This is not something that's done in abstract. You're not a long long distance away. Your up close and personal and these rooms are there. You know it's. It's not the taj mahal here. I mean i. It's not rural tiny but they're pretty small You're gonna be on top of her when you're doing this. Jeff wondered how the brutal precision xtra by the killers could play into the prosecution's case. Does that come into play. They shoot another holding her baby twice in the head. does that make it worse than shooting her once. This is a prosecutors during. If you're talking about narrative right it takes so savagery on the part of an individual to do this. He look at chris. Junior who's in dwelling this place. He's hey shot is kind of nonspecific. We do know that that he was actually shot Multiple tom's in the head and he's sixteen year old kid. What what threat does does he pose. Well why would you take the life of the sixteen year old boy there. I don't. I don't understand that i think at the end of the day when we analyze all of these these shootings. There's thread. obviously. I've talked about about the overkill that the goes into all of this. But there's a a proximal issue here to that. That is that you're getting into the space of these victims. Then it's likely the killers targeted their last victim. Kenneth wrote in who is sleeping a trailer a few miles away on left fork road however kenneth crime scene was strikingly different from the other road victims. This is the end the big finale and they shoot this gun the i now you know. This idea that he shot in the ogden goes to another level of violence here literally. Did he see this coming at that. Moment top then to kind of you know. Put the icing on the cake. Mean you drop dollar bills around again. That goes to motive. You're you're trying to put the police on the sense that this is something other than what it appears i've worked cartel related homicides with the There's messaging that goes along with the sort of thing but again. Is that what they were going for. This is a different type of staging. You're not trying to mitigate the idea that it's something other than homicide still homicide you're trying to to the motivation behind outside to put them offset and that's a very very interesting narrative and you begin to think about it and your professional experience. Have you ever heard of a family that operates as a foursome to different locations in this manner. That's pretty uncommon. I would assume never a good working to major metropolitan areas as coroner medical tannin investigator. I've never encountered it. The syrup our bertie of the road and murders will be a critical part of the story but one element in particular will be crucial to convince the jury. Jeff joseph morgan about it. I'm just curious like how the prosecutors were gonna wanna talk about question of whether or not the victim for aware of their life was going to add end and how that might impact for jury going to be critical for the prosecutor to be able to the information that the investigators had developed in the field working these scenes in particular the time. These little markers and tom along the way how well were. They able to document the actions that took place within the environment. If they can get that information out into open court than they'll begin to talk about. I can envision closing statement in particular prosecutor. Stand up there and say they took their time. We have them document is being in this location. This particular time and use jury have to consider this. What were they saying. What were they doing while they were in there. Did these people know that they were about to die. And of course the prosecutor. It's their job to put this horrible. It is but the jury members in the place of the victims to help them understand. Because everybody's been in fear of their life the end of their life at some point. Tom so you have to make that almost. You can't do it but you wanna make it. It's almost tactile as you possibly can. So the people in the jury. They feel it stirring within their soul where they understand okay. These people were at a critical mass and they knew that it was about to happen. What would i do in that moment. Tom realized that malign was actually coming to an end. Let's stop here for another quick break. We'll be back in a moment in the land of diamonds. 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That's diamonds dot com. I think that even a trained assassin would find it foolhardy to go about trying to kill eight people on same evening covering this much territory there too many things. That can go wrong unless you have somebody watching your back. You're going to have to have a person that potentially the lookout transporter you're going to have to have somebody that can muscle control the intended victims. And then you have to have shooter. And ideally you would. In fact need somebody. That's doing overall coordination because this logistically. It's a daunting task. I think to say the very least you know in this particular case There are too many variables involved. But even after you klan perpetrators are not crime scene. Investigators they don't think like crops and investigators. They're so very rare most of the cases that that we work as investigators. There is a huge opportunity where these people to screw up long white to leave something behind that is a direct indicator of their involvement or presence When these deaths occurred and in this case what was left behind included three young children. According to morgan despaired lives go directly to the heart of the presiding motive of the case the singular driver behind us. It has to those those children Hold value the attachment to the children as the driver. When you get overkill in in my experience at least it goes to a lot of anger it goes to a lot of passion and you'll see it and domestics you go to all the trouble but yet easily these three babies alive and you have to you to kind of question this and it has an investigator down a specific direction who would attach value to the shoulder to see. Continue to live and still exists among the land of the living of their cam. When accused killers billy angela george wagner had to trial prosecutors will paint them as the main characters in a gruesome multi-layered horror story. Good prosecutors are great storytellers. That's their heartbeat. If they are affected they take all these little pieces of evidence. All the stuff we've been talking about. And they tighten that thing down and they walk into the courtroom and they start talking about mamas and they start talking about babies and they start talking about these familial ties and it will be powerful in court. It will be very powerful. And i can. I can almost see it now. Envisioning right now when he starts talking about this and you can that jury. They'll be a slow turn of their his toward the defendant's table. No matter who's on trial up particular. Tom as they will talk about mama and they will talk about those babies and they're gonna stare that individual town. They don't think who in the hills in the courtroom with us. Right now while we wait to see if billy angela and george wagner will head to trial there's one man intimately involved in the road murder case who has already seen his day in court. Tie county sheriff charles reader after the road murders. He became front and center of all of the coverage. She was giving information alongside the ohio. Attorney general at that time people were looking to him for information and they wanted reader along with the state of ohio to solve these murders from all of the coverage that went into pike county in the months after these murders. Charlie reader was a central figure in that but sheriff reader had a quick fall from grace in june twenty nineteen he was indicted on eight felonies and misdemeanors targes included theft in office and tampering with evidence that was huge news not only because of his involvement in the road murderers. But i mean you're talking about the shitting sheriff. The high sheriff. Pike county is now the subject of an investigation evidence of misconduct evidence of corruption by a politician. You're going man. I don't know what may act with this. on march. twenty four th twenty twenty one. Sheriff reader appeared in court to face. The charges leveled against him. Guilty verdict would have major consequences. If you're a defense attorney working on this case and the sheriff of the county gets indicted. I would think you know. If you're a wagner attorney you look to have a field day with that that might be part of your defense more on that next time for more information on the case and relevant photos. Follow us on instagram at kt underscore studios the peyton massacre. Returned by county is executive produced by stephanie. Lie decker and me. Courtney armstrong editing and sound design by executive producer. Jared aston additional producing by jeff. Shane andrew becker and chris graves the pike and massacre return to pay. County is a production of iheartradio. Kt studios for more podcasts. From iheartradio visit the iheartradio app apple podcasts. Or wherever you listen to. Your favorite shows management concepts delivers the training federal employees need for every stage of their career over two hundred. Seventy five courses taught online and in classrooms by expert instructors new leadership and acquisition courses available for twenty twenty one management concepts dot com. Love can make you stupid so think smart about her dream diamond before you take the plunge visit moves. Diamond importers with a huge selection of quality diamonds at fair prices moves. Diamond is the region's first choice. At mervyn's you'll receive a free diamond education and no pressure to buy and leading designer rings from tacori verragio. You'll know why. Movers was honored by washington. Post as best place to buy diamond. Check our reviews at movers. Diamond dot com again. That's moves diamond dot com.