A WITNESS who found his cousin’s body after a brutal massacre that killed eight has broken down in tears during the murder trial.
George Wagner IV and three other members of his family are accused of killing eight relatives of the Rhoden family in April 2016.
Donald Stone was one of the first civilian witnesses to testify at the trial – but was overcome by emotion when he took the stand to speak about one of the victims, his cousin Kenneth Rhoden.
Stone collapsed on the stand as he recalled finding his cousin’s body on April 22, 2016.
Kenneth was found separate from the other victims, shot only once through his eye.
Stone recalled growing up with Kenneth and how they attended an auction together before his cousin died.
“Almost every time I was down, the man was there to help me,” Stone said while standing in the stands.
As the audio of Stone’s placed 911 call played in the courtroom and photos of the gruesome scene were shown, Stone collapsed.
According to FOX19, he was unable to continue for several minutes.
Kenneth’s mother was also in the courtroom and also collapsed when the photos were shown, the outlet reports.
Kenneth’s son Luke was with Stone on April 22, 2016.
Upon learning that other family members had been killed, the two went to check on Kenneth at the RV he was staying in on Left Fork Road.
Stone went into the bedroom, leaving Luke in the living room.
“He ran past me and told me to get out. Like he’d been shot,” Luke told jurors Thursday.
Luke told FOX19 that he “can’t wait for it to happen [the trial] over, really.”
He said taking the witness stand was “nerve-wracking” and the experience was “tough” on his mental state.
OBSESSED WITH TAKING CONTROL
The Wagner family is said to be responsible for the murders and planned the attack for months.
George IV’s younger brother, Jake Wagner, and his mother, Angela Wagner, pleaded guilty to their roles last year.
You are to testify at George IV’s trial.
A fourth member of the Wagner family, George “Billy” Wagner III, is still awaiting trial. He has pleaded not guilty.
Jake Wagner, 29, had a daughter with one of the victims, Hanna Rhoden, who was 19 when she died.
The southern Ohio families had been close for years. Then the Wagner family became obsessed with gaining control of Jake’s daughter, Special Attorney Angela Canepa said.
However, Hanna, the child’s mother, said four months before the massacre that “they have to kill me first” before declining custody in a Facebook post.
Jake said he initially pushed back when his parents suggested killing Rhoden, but then relented, according to Canepa.
The family decided to kill four members of the Roden family because they believed Jake’s daughter would grow up around dangerous people, Canepa said.
But that number rose to eight during the killings to ensure no one could point a finger at them, a prosecutor said in court on Monday.
Some of the victims were treated as “collateral damage” by the Wagners, Canepa said.
“They knew there could be other people there and agreed they needed to be killed as well,” she said. “People they had no problem with, they were willing to kill indiscriminately.”
Seven adults and one teenager were shot dead in cold blood while they slept on a night in April 2016.
Prosecutors said the Wagners used guns with homemade silencers that allowed them to kill their victims while they slept.
Jake pleaded guilty to shooting five of the victims and will testify against his brother George Wagner IV, 30, as part of his plea deal, which prevents him from receiving the death penalty.
The family were traveling across three trailers and an RV when they allegedly killed Hannah along with their relatives: Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40, his ex-wife, Dana Rhoden, 37, and their three children, Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 20, Christopher Jr., 16, and Hanna.
Among those killed were Clarence’s fiancee Hannah Gilley, Christopher Sr.’s brother Kenneth Rhoden, 44, and cousin Gary Rhoden, 38.
Most of the victims were repeatedly shot in the head, and some were bruised. Three young children at the scene were unharmed.
Authorities said they targeted some of the victims, but “sadly some were killed because they happened to be there,” a prosecutor said Monday.
https://www.the-sun.com/news/6242080/witness-murder-trial-found-cousins-body-brutal-massacre/ Witness breaks down in tears as murder trial learns how he found his cousin’s body after brutal massacre left 8 dead