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Hi, I'm Brian Husky, I'm bald, and I'm Charlie Sanders, I'm also bald and we want to talk to people about it. Charlie, did you know that the less hair you have, the more interesting you become? Yeah, of course everybody knows that. Oh, right. I mention them. Well, on our podcast, Paltalk, we interview people about being bald. Brian, is this show just for Baldy's Charlie?


No, Heroes' will enjoy this, too. I mean, the show is about perception, insecurity, vanity, just like human stuff.


You wouldn't believe the things that come up. Listen to ball talk on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.


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Welcome to the Python massacre, episode nine. We're going to do something a little bit different for this episode and go into the process of producing the podcast and also answer some questions that we've been getting over social media. I'm Courtney Armstrong. I work at Katie's studios with Stephanie Lydecker and Jeff Shane.


We're finally together again. Distance put together. Yeah, because of covid, we've all been recording separately, but we're actually in the same socially distant space today for the first time in many months. And we are sitting outside to keep safe.


One of the things a bunch of people have asked about is how we came upon this case. And Jeff, do you want to speak to that because you really were the impetus for it?


Yeah. Katey's Studios, we do a lot of true crime programming, and so we're always kind of on the lookout for interesting cases that are layered and complex that could make for, you know, compelling television documentaries. And, you know, when it first happened, when the Rodin's were first murdered, it got a fair amount of attention at the beginning. And as we've talked about pretty quickly, the media kind of backed off when there weren't arrests and that was kind of all there was to it.


And in terms of our knowledge. And then in June of twenty eighteen, I read an article by Jeff Winckler, who you've all heard during this podcast that he wrote for the outline, a long form article about the crime that really he did such a good job of laying out the story and what happened and the people involved. And it immediately struck a chord with me, just the human element of it all and how tragic it was. And so reached out to Jeff Winkler and started the conversation about figuring out how we could make this some sort of long form documentary.


Yeah. So here's an excerpt of him talking about piped in and part of what drew us all in.


So I remember that very specifically. It was a big media story for about two weeks. And, you know, everybody from all over came to cover it all over the world. And then they left and the murder was still unsolved.


How did you end up writing? Because you wrote a pretty big piece. What was the. Tell me about that. I wrote a piece about a year later.


This was, after all, the sort of fanfare and media attention went away. And I went to Pite and a year later, almost to the day, about a year to the day of the killings. And I wanted to see how the town was doing, both the community and the people who were directly involved in it, because at that point there was still no suspects, no one was really arrested or being prosecuted for the crime. And it was the largest unsolved murder in Ohio's history and the second largest mass murder that year in the United States after the police shooting in Florida.


We have been tracking this case since it happened, and when we first got involved, the Wagners hadn't been arrested or weren't even being looked at as suspects by detectives. So we pitched the idea of this documentary to Rod Aissa and Corey Abrahim, who are executives at NBC Universal's Oxygen Network.


And really the spirit of that was that this huge crime had occurred to the poor Rowden family and the killer was at large and there were still out there cut to the Wagners, get arrested and our executives at Oxygen call us and put us on a plane to pectin. Yeah, I mean, let's talk about we've spent I mean, I think between the three of us weeks in Picton over the course of many trips. And yeah, you guys spent more time there than I did.


So I'd be curious what your take on it is.


My first time was when we were going to do the doc and I flew by myself, I think, on Thanksgiving and met Jeff Winkler, who of course, wrote this important article, who we were just talking to and brainstorming with.


You know, initially this trip, Stephanie, that you're talking about was literally nine days after the arrest. You know, they the wagons were arrested on November 13. Twenty eighteen. She's on a plane on November twenty second. And so it was really soon after that the team was there. And I mean, the town was, I think, a form of shell shock at that point. I think the mood in the town was really palpable that were something very big about what was happening around us.


Um, you know, we've said this before. It is a very small town. Two thousand people. So to have eight people murdered out of those two thousand, every single person in the town is affected to some degree or knows somebody six degrees of separation who is either on the Wagner side or on the road inside. So everyone was very affected and asking questions about this huge crime at that time, you know, can can be hard because it's a sensitive topic.


And it seems as though the town of Pectin specifically and many of the family members of victims or on the Wagner side that in previous incarnations had been treated very poorly by the press. So we wanted to be very sensitive about that.


Yeah. Another thing Jeff Winkler talk to us about was his visit in 2017.


I think this thing that stood up for me when I went to visit was just how human everyone was. And I know that sounds a little trite, but I mean, I grew up in the Ozarks in Arkansas, so coming up from the Ozarks and then spend time in Texas and Tennessee. This is where I think the stories are and the coverage needs to be done more. And, you know, when the initial coverage happened, you know, it was just the sort of footage and quotes from sad sort of backwoods people, how they perceived.


But everyone there is full of faith and humor and, you know, real, real sort of American mentality. People I met there who had family members still had a sort of a grim humor about things. It was a way of coping. And people found faith in the local church. And you find these sort of avenues that people from anywhere find to grieve and to sort of move on. And that was I think that was the biggest thing when I went there.


Jeff Winkler ended up becoming the greatest, we popped in a car and drove, I don't know, probably 15 hours a day, door to door to various people's homes between Kentucky and Ohio. You know, Jeff Winckler, he knew this area. He'd been to pectin many times prior. So he had already been there and had the lay of the land. I hadn't. And, you know, we've been tracking this case from far, far away. Its articles, its newspapers, its news clippings.


You know, you develop this relationship with the victims and the victims families and now the accused simply by staring at their photos excessively and obsessively. So for me, getting there was fascinating, even just getting off the plane and renting a car to drive to PYKEN and seeing the water tower, as I had seen in so many photos and wanting to kind of understand better where the high school was and, you know, where everybody lived. And I just remember being emotional and it's hard.


You know, we make prime shows for a living. But then sometimes when you're submerged in the place and you know what the grief is that everybody is experiencing on the victim side and on the accused side, it's a town ripped apart. And to Jeff's point, there's not a single person at the gas station or at the Wal-Mart or at the, you know, local restaurant. That isn't either a thought, you know, isn't talking about it or thinking about it.


To your point, about showing up and just knocking on doors as TV producers were used to being able to call people and book some of these shows over the phone picked and I think is a little bit of an outlier. You know, there's not a lot of cell service there. People live in the hills and it's hard to get someone on the phone. And so the really the only way to do it was to show up, knock on the door, you know, with a smile and a box of cookies or a pie and just hope that people would answer the door and be let us in, which luckily the town of Pectin was really, for the most part, very kind and receptive to us as complete outsiders being there.


Yeah, the first place I went was Rita Newcomb's home and knocked on her door and she was lovely, um, invited me right in, know she was in fact wearing an ankle bracelet because she had recently been released. And to be truthful, at the moment, I didn't realize how embedded she potentially was in this investigation.


The first morning I was there was the arraignment of Jake Wagner, and it was an interesting experience. The courtroom was packed and completely silent. It was delayed by almost 40 minutes. It was supposed to be nine o'clock start. And I've never sat in a more silent room filled with people. And it was a very interesting experience seeing Jake walk in and hearing his plea and sitting near members of the rodent family where people on both sides were on his side, where people on the road and side like, what was your experience like?


Yeah, people were definitely on both sides.


And the Rodin's was absolutely filled and the Wagner side was much more sparsely filled.


Do you think that speaks to what we've been hearing and what we've been trying to convey with this podcast, which is that the road and family was so incredibly close and as we were told, family over everything. Yeah, absolutely.


And just the devastation that ripped through that family is a little hard to comprehend. So people were definitely there. People were definitely very sad. It was very tragic. And but they were showing their support. I remember when Courtney was at that arraignment, like calling you just to see what was it like? You know, again, we have these visions in our head based solely on photographs of the Wagner family, Jake Wagner being the youngest, just to kind of be able to see him face to face air quotes or at least kind of look in his eyes to see, you know, does that look like a person who could actually commit something so heinous?


And the truth is, it's really an unanswerable question.


A lot of people, understandably, a lot of listeners have asked about where the children are now.


Yeah, Brentley, who is Frankie Rodent's, who was Frankie Rodin's son, is with his mom. We actually Stephanie and I knocked on her door in hopes of speaking with her. She declined, which made complete sense. But we we met Brentley. He seemed like a great kid. He seemed smiling and laughing. And in the few minutes we had with him seemed well-adjusted, which is a relief for us as human beings.


Yeah, just as a reminder, this is the small young boy who crawled under his dad's bed. We were sharing with his soon to be stepmother and waited for police to come. This is the kind of terror that this family was put through. And to Jeff's point, when we saw him, we felt a great sense of relief that he he looked like he was thriving. Pylea, who is Hannah?


Rodin's newborn baby, is with her father, Charlie Guelleh.


She was the infant that was just born five days prior to Hannah wrote in. I would say for all of us to in this probably would apply to listeners to the fact that there were such small infants and young children left alive at the scene just kind of puts a dagger in your heart. So unfortunately, Sophia Wagner, who is the child of Jake Wagner and Hannah Rowden, is in the care of Child Protective Services. And that's something I know the road and family is unhappy about.


And I know specifically in the Wagner side of it, DeRay is unhappy about. I think the feeling is that there are people who are blood related to Sophia who could give her a really good home right now. So here's a little bit from Durai about that.


So you are actually hoping to take Sophia in and give her a safe and comfortable home while all this is happening?


Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I'm a I'm a professional. I mean, I take in children with trauma. That's my profession. And that's what I like to do. I have two boys with me now who have autism. They're excellent children. They are well, they're proof in the pudding. And we would have had a really good time.


So they couldn't even you couldn't even see Sophia if you wanted to. I could not. I want her to know she's loved. I don't want her to think anything's wrong. So something, yeah, that we've been asked about by a fair amount of listeners was how the podcast has affected the people that we interviewed and the people that have spoken out about it. And I think for the most part, it's been pretty positive in terms of who we've talked to in their experience in Pictet, living in Picart in Barbe, for example, told us that she felt like the podcast represented the town well and the story in a fair way.


Angie Montgomery, who we talked about, her cousin Curtis and Johnny's case, felt happy that we were finally shining a light on something that people haven't really been talking about.


That was a really important piece of this for us, because we care deeply about piped in. First and foremost, we've been there many, many times. The town has been extremely kind to us at a time that not everyone has been that kind to them and making sure that we weren't coming across in any universe as being insensitive to the victims and the victims families, understanding that there's a gag order, understanding that anything somebody says could have impacts on upcoming trials.


It's important. The stakes are actually extremely high and we're widely aware of that. But it's hard not to be emotional about it or to get emotionally attached to an answer or, you know, want to really understand who the boogeyman is, who's responsible for something so horrible. And, um, as a result, I think every time we get involved deeper into this case, we want to know more. Is it possible that hopefully the mom isn't involved?


This couldn't be if Angela Wagner was at the center of it, is it because she was being forced to be so by her husband, or is that just a lie? Or was Angela wildly manipulative and coerced her boys in the spirit of defending her family and defending her? Sophia, and if that's the case, what a silly plan, because now you're never going to see your boys again. You've all been separated. If convicted, you'll never cross paths unless one of you falls on the other in court.


And with four people, you know, if indeed they are deemed guilty. There's the question that we raised a few episodes ago about the informant and who that is. There is an informant who's been written about and if it is one of the four, you know, if they've turned on the rest of their family, how that would bear out, because it would be hard for to manage that guilt for years and years.


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So just over four years for people, in my opinion, packed mentality would suggest that at some point the night of the murders, if the Wagners did in fact do it, that there was a heavy there was somebody who was the the real leader. Right. And that the real leader reminds everybody, this is why we have to do this. We protecting our own. We're protecting our family or we're protecting Sophia. And to some degree, everybody follows along again.


At four different times, somebody could have changed their vote. Who knows what the circumstances of where that night, although we're desperate to now add four years, four years separated, there's zero chance at all. Four of them will stick to the exact same story, not have the exact same amount of guilt like somebody is going to crack. If that's the informant, it makes a ton of sense. And if that's the informant who is either trying to spare themselves or spare their family somehow, that to me would make a lot of sense.


The fact that George Wagner is requesting a Bible and requesting solitary confinement for lengthy periods of time to me has always been a bit of a tell. You know, Jake, yes. You're caught up. If, in fact, this is true, that you need to have custody of your child and you're heartbroken and the love of your life is dating somebody else and just had a baby with somebody else. And it's it's filled with passion. It's a passion kill.


We make crime shows for a living. Oftentimes it's love or money or revenge. Defending your family. This checks all of those boxes. But that was then. Now add four years realizing you're not around your daughter any longer. You've committed mass murder from which you can never go back. Somebody has to crack, is my point.


Just as a legal reminder, Angela, Billy Jack and George Wagner were charged with aggravated murder. Angela Wagner's mother, Rita Jo Newcome and Billy Wagner's mother, Frederica, were both charged with obstruction of justice and perjury. Newcome was also charged with forgery. All six of them pled not guilty. And our justice system presumes innocence until guilt is proven. Can we talk about one thing that has always I'm going to speak for all of us, but is the thing in my head that I can never get out of it in terms of whether or not we believe which frankly, matters for nothing.


If the Wagners are, in fact, guilty or not, it's the hacking.


Why were they hacking the rodent family for as long as they were? And according to the official documents that we have seen, it has been reported about also that, in fact, they were busting into all of their social media. Why in such a mess, in such a big way, too? It's not as though it was. It doesn't appear to be jump in if I'm incorrect. It doesn't appear that, say, for example, Jake was hacking Hannah rodent's Facebook because he was wildly jealous about her new relationship or that she had moved on in a new relationship.


That is terrible to do under any circumstance, but that seems like a young person's effort. But it doesn't seem like that was the case. It was a fairly high level surveillance operation happening to all of them.


And why what has been brought up in court is that it was deeply organized. I mean, there were Excel spreadsheets done, hundreds and hundreds of entries about child custody. They put up cameras and they were in all of their computers and phones. It was really elaborate. It was elaborate.


And they were the Wagners were often together. So was this an activity just because they wanted to track Hannah's relationship or look, where were they tracking? You know, what makes the most sense on the surface and again, allegedly, is that they were tracking the comings and goings and tracking the property and understanding the the dogs. It did seem as though big dogs were common. And we know for a fact that the rodents had attack dogs. Why didn't the dogs attack?


That really does make no sense. Still, however, if you knew the dogs and you had been to the home many times, as certainly Jake would have been many times, and you had an understanding of kind of how that home worked and what their habits were. It does feel like an indication that the Wagners were up to no good if they were legitimately cyberstalking an entire family just months prior to that family tragic death.


Clinton from Canada, Texas, asked us why Sofia wasn't with her mom the night of the murders. And was it under unusual circumstances that she was picked up by Jake Wagner? And, yeah, it's up for debate. Why Sofia wasn't with Hannah. Jake Wagner has admitted that he did pick Sophie up a day earlier than he originally planned and that so she wasn't with her mom that fateful Friday evening, Jake Wagner said on the record, I reckon we missed it by just a few hours.


And by that he means the murders. And so we don't know what happened between Jake Wagner and Hannah wrote in the night of the murders or why he told her he was picking her up early or why he did pick her up early. But we do know she was supposed to be with her mom that night. And for reasons we don't know, Jake Wagner did take her home early.


And my expectation would be if we have text exchanges just based on the fact that we know that people text so frequently because the reception between phones can be spotty in these rural places, there has to be some sort of a message saying I will pick her up early or requesting to pick her up early. I think that is another huge smoking gun. The fact that Sofia wasn't there that day and was picked up by Jake off of schedule, he's changed his story on this a couple of times.


And I think this was a key place where there was an inconsistency about this topic. But regardless, it is suspicious and we disagree on that. I think things happen. And what seems the simplest explanation to me is that Hannah Rowden had just had a baby days before and maybe she wanted a break with just her infant and not a toddler, but something we don't know. Jay from Storm, like Iowa, asked us, what happens if the Wagners get off, will they get custody of Sophia?


I can only imagine that if the Wagners do it off, they will attempt to get back to their normal life and it's possible they would want custody of Sophia. But former prosecutor Mike Allen told me that because they were so closely linked to the murders, it may be difficult for Jake Wagner to obtain custody, which, if he's innocent, is tragic to think that because he was mixed up in this, he wouldn't be able to get to raise his daughter.


Here's an excerpt of that conversation with Mike Allen.


So let's say Jake Wagner does get off and has proven not guilty. So do you think he doesn't he doesn't have a chance of getting Sophia back?


Probably has a chance of getting her back. But I think a judge would be hard pressed to grant custody for someone who was named as a defendant in a multiple homicide case. Even if he is acquitted, you just don't know. But I'll tell you what, that's not going to be decided.


I don't think for for many years to come, even if he let's say he really didn't do it and he's being held, you know, wrongly accused that he never gets to see his daughter again. She never was. Your daddy like that, even alone, is such a tragedy.


If well, if there's no evidence or no strong evidence against him and he's acquitted and people are scratching their heads thinking, well, why was he even indicted? I suppose he would have a chance then. But you never know. I mean, you never know what happens in a criminal trial. The custody battle is one that will probably outlive the criminal case. That will probably go on for years and years and years. I mean, obviously, it was a contentious subject before the murders.


Again, many believe that that was the primary motive, but that will continue to go on. There'll probably be numerous court hearings for years until that's finally settled. And that that's a shame because the children, if they're not already hurt, which, of course they are, they're going to continue to be victimized probably for a long a long time to come.


Susan from New Vienna, Ohio, asked us when the trials are supposed to begin, and that's an interesting question. Obviously, the Wagners did waive their right to a speedy trial, but now because of covid, it seems that the trials have been delayed. Billy Wagner's attorney, Mark Collins, said that the trials have been put on hold. Angela Wagner's attorney said something different. He said the trials were supposed to begin this fall, which would be very soon, if not imminent.


So it's unclear about what exactly is happening. But we do know that right now the pretrial hearings are happening. George Wagner just had his last week. So things are starting to move in the right direction.


There was an attempt to be made to get him released on bond. Seems very different than somebody being held in solitary confinement with a Bible waiting for their last days. These are death penalty trials. You know, that's not to be underestimated for separate capital punishment. Trials are a big deal and one surely affects the other. And any inconsistency from one to the next has to be paramount to all.


I would imagine, you know, I don't know the answer to that. That's a good question, because they are four separate trials. So I don't know actually, if one has bearing on the other.


I mean, you know, you'd assume the evidence. Some of it will be similar, but it's it's all going to be dependent. For example, I remember reading that DNA, it was there is confirmed that the prosecution has DNA evidence. What that evidence is, we don't know. But there's been made mention of it. So, you know, the fact that there's differences in DNA is going to change the course of those four trials completely.


I was just suggesting that those four trials, the I guess the narrative from each of the Wagner members, family members, has to be pretty buttoned up. If there is one inconsistency between Jake's story and his mom's story or their dad's story, that's a big deal.


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We can take this time and use it in a way to bring people together.


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I have hope that we are actually going to figure out how to allow people to be free hearted, free thinkers.


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Another question we got was from Karl from Belfast, Ohio, who asked us if something happens and the Wagners are found not guilty.


How do we think the town would react to them being back in town and would they be able to stay in the town? And it's a good question. And based on what we've heard and the reaction to the Wagners, I personally think it would be really hard for them to stay in Picton. You know, we talked to a Wagner family member who wished to remain anonymous, who gave us some pretty horrible details about what happened to them before the arrests.


That being said, you know, Frederica does have a lot of land and piped in and they have a lot of ties to the community. So they might that might be where they would call home.


Frederica Wagner is also an interesting piece to this puzzle. By all accounts, she's the great matriarch of the Wagner empire. And, you know, she looks like such a beautiful grandmother like you would conjure up in your head, or if you were casting a movie that you wouldn't believe somebody could look so perfect. She wears this little black lace and not a veil over her face. It's sort of like an overlay, but it's really a look that makes you think, oh, she could never be involved in.


She's so beloved by the town and has done so many charitable things. That's a real cross-section of opinion by so many. Some people say that she is a pure saint. The kind is the nicest, the most genuine, the most charitable human that has ever walked the earth. And others say she's downright wicked.


I mean, listen, there's two sides to every coin. And I think both of what you said bears out. It really depends on what your perspective is. If you are one of the people who Frederico Wagner has helped along the way and provided food and assistance, you are going to see the godly woman that so many people speak of. And if you are one of the people who were renting land that you were supposed to be buying at the end of it, and then you allegedly had that land pulled out from under you and revert back to Frederica, then you're going to feel very, very differently.


Both things are true. Both things are true. That's, I guess, what's so complicated about this.


So, you know, discovery continues, and these trials, I think, would be set sooner than later is, I would imagine, the hope the defense of the Wagners was trying to move the trial outside of Python because getting 12 unbiased jurors might be challenging and they were ultimately denied that privilege. That's kind of a strike against the defense. What we have heard from the prosecution is that they are accumulating a lot of evidence at this point and much of it we can't get our hands on.


So there have been pretty tight lipped outside of the silencers, the vests, the shoes that were bought at Wal-Mart, DNA evidence that's said to be found at one, if not multiple crime scenes. But outside of that, they've kept a lot of things to themselves, understandably so. And that I think we're going to hear about sooner than later, because who goes first I think is very interesting. Who do you guys think will be up first?


You know, I'll I'll go just by the arraignment. And I believe I'm correct that Jake Wagner was the first of the Wagners to be arraigned. So I would bet, Jake, and a lot of the thought is that, you know, since custody allegedly is at the center. So I say, Jake Wagner, I was going to say that the eldest son, George Wagner, would be up first.


But, wow, what a shocker if Jake Wagner is up first, because then to me, there's no question that his involvement with the Rodin's is at the center of these trials. At the bare minimum, whether he did or did not do it, that one piece would follow all of the trials, I would imagine.


Reach out to us on our social media outlets with questions where on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter at PYKEN Massacre.


We look forward to answering your questions and upcoming episodes pectin massacre's executive produced by Stephanie Lydecker and me, Courtney Armstrong, editing and sound design by executive producer Jared Estin, additional producing by Jeff Shane and Andrew Becker. The Python massacre is a production of I Heart Radio and Katie Studios from our podcast From My Heart Radio. Visit the I Heart Radio App, Apple podcast or wherever you listen to your favorite shows. I need you to get here, maybe you know me as mayor.


We know that this is the first year of the 20s has been one of chaos and anguish. But I believe now is the beginning of America's deciding decade, a time that will present leaders and all Americans with decisions that will shape life in this country for the rest of this century. In my new podcast, I'll be talking to people from every field whose ideas and actions will shape the era that is about to begin. I look at everything through a racial list.


Is this going to perpetuate systemic racism or is it going to help dismantle while the rest of the country and elected officials have to start doing that? They have to know what systemic racism is.


When people protest in a country that means they still love it enough that they still believe change is possible.


I have hope that we are actually going to figure out how to allow people to be free hearted, free thinkers.


Listen to the deciding decade on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcast, or wherever you get your podcasts. What if I told you that UFOs, haunted houses and even inexplicable magic tricks are all caused by the same creature? And what if I told you these powerful and ancient beings are meant to be feared? The hidden gem in a new podcast from My Heart Radio and Aaron Menck is grim and mild, explores the legends of these ancient and terrifying creatures.


Join me, Rabia Chaudry, as we step into the world of the hidden gem, listen to the hidden gem on Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcasts.