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[00:00:00]

Hey, everybody, it's been Higgins and it's Ashlei, and we're the hosts of the almost famous podcast. I was The Bachelorette and know first hand how dating twenty five people at one time is not easy. And I was on the show a time or two or four, but I met my husband, so I'm proof that the process works. We do interviews with the cast members creating the headlines and we know pretty much everyone. So we're a reliable source.

[00:00:23]

Listen to Almost Famous on the I Heart radio app, on Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcasts.

[00:00:32]

Hi, I'm Heidi Murkoff, host of What to Expect, a new podcast from My Heart Radio when I first wrote What to Expect When You're Expecting. My mission was simple to help parents know what to expect every step of the way on what to expect will answer your biggest pregnancy and parenting questions about everything from preconception planning to birth plan. Newborns sleep to toddler tantrums. Motherhood is the ultimate sisterhood, but it can be overwhelming if you don't know what to expect.

[00:01:04]

Listen to what to expect on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcasts.

[00:01:15]

Welcome to the Pickton Massacre, a production of I Heart Radio and Katie Studios. On the morning of April 22nd, 2016, the small town of Peyton, Ohio, awoke to some horrifying news spread out across four homes, all within a few miles of each other. Eight members of a local family, the rodents were found murdered. They were shot execution style in their beds, the victims of a methodical killing spree. It was an unprecedented and confounding crime when they would launch the largest homicide investigation in Ohio's history.

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Frustration, anger, sadness. Emotions are still raw in Pike County. Most of the people in this town say whoever shot and killed eight members of the rodent family need to be found soon. I hope that the emotion in this area apprehend each and every one. These are people. These are monsters.

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Episode two, Wackness in custody. I'm Courtney Armstrong, a TV producer at Katie's Studios with Stephanie Lydecker and Jeff Shane, we produced television series and documentaries.

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You're Stephanie for me. This case was incredibly disturbing and personally really hard to stop thinking about. Eight people from the exact same family all killed in one night, but at four different locations. That's extremely strategic.

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The three of us have been following this case very closely for years. Here's producer Jeff Shane talking to Jody Barr, an investigative journalist who reported for TV station Fox 19 in Cincinnati. You're not, as a journalist, easily shocked, but like this was shocking, probably, right? Yeah, it was shocking. I would say it was more confusion because on the typical murder or a breaking news story, you can roll the events in your mind. But this is this isn't the typical murder, you know, where there's one or two victims in a single house and, you know, the bad guy took off.

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You know, this was something way outside the norm. You're just thinking what is going on here? This none of this makes sense. But you knew it had to be something big because you got eight members of one family targeted, murdered in their sleep, in their homes and the killers seemingly vanished. We didn't know the pieces. We didn't know how to put it together. There was no information coming out about these murders, about motives. Even the family members who were in direct communication with law enforcement, even they weren't being told anything.

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I mean, it's a good investigative work. And you hold your cards close to the chest as an investigator. Maybe that's what it was. But, you know, from the outside looking in, it was almost like law enforcement didn't have a clue at that point in time.

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An overwhelming amount of tips have been pouring in to police, but no arrests have been made. Along with her, Attorney General Mike DeWine is saying that over 200 investigators and police officers have contributed so far to this ongoing investigation he's being offered. But the killer has disappeared. As the investigation dragged on, rumors ran rampant in the close knit community and journalists like Jody Barr started digging deeper.

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This did seem to be a very tactical, a very clean sort of. You know, when you think of an assassin doing a hit like you see in the movies, you started to wonder if there was something to that because of just how seemingly clean these killings were. I mean, how does one person or a group of people hit four separate homes, kill eight different people, seemingly leave absolutely no trace of any evidence? What does this mean? What is going on here?

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But after I started having conversations with the rodent family and you start talking to some people who were very close to the victims in this case, at least very close acquaintances, you started to realize that, you know, that there were some people that even I had conversations with in Pike County who I knew they knew more than what they were telling me. I knew they knew more about what happened that morning and they knew more about the circumstances surrounding the rodents that could have led to these murders, but they would not tell it.

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And I don't know if it was because they were afraid or they didn't want to believe what they believe happened. But all we kept hearing from the family, from the people around there, and they were phrased this way, is that it was locals. What did that mean? We didn't know.

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By the summer of twenty eighteen, the investigation had entered its second year and peaked and residents like Barbara were becoming increasingly scared.

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It's an extremely sinister thing that occurred. It's like a movie. When I was young, people got along and, you know, it was we left our doors unlocked. You know, it was it was that trusting and relaxed in Pike County. So we couldn't believe something like that would happen here.

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And it was it was especially terrifying because no one knew who did it or why. And you don't know if your family's next. It's just one scene in a grisly situation, if you are fearful, arm yourself. If you feel that you need to protect yourself or family, do so. On November 13th, 2018, everything was set to change. Here's Governor of Ohio, Mike DeWine, then attorney general.

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Good afternoon. We promised that the day would come when arrest would be made in the Pike County massacre. Today is that day in a series of arrests that sent shockwaves through the insolated community. Six members of a local family, the Wagners, were taken into custody.

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Keep your hands up. Pick up back out of there.

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47 year old Billy Wagner is the patriarch of the Wagner family and was arrested near Lexington, Kentucky, in a horse trailer that was pulled over.

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Go down. Go down on your knees and on your back and watch your back.

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Angela Wagner is Billy's wife and matriarch of the Wagner family. The 48 year old was arrested at their home near Pike in Ohio.

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Go ahead. Angela Wagner in the car, 41 13. Thirty one.

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Angela and Billy's two sons, George Wagner and Jake Wagner, were arrested together during a traffic stop. George is 27 and Jake was 26, 76 year old Fredricka Wagner. Billy Wagner's mother was arrested at the family's horse farm, the flying w. Angela Wagner's mother, 65 year old Rita Jo Newcome, was arrested at her home. While six members of the Wagner family were arrested in connection with the crime, Billy, Angela, George and Jake Wagner were charged with eight counts of aggravated murder.

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Details about the arrests of four people in the murders of eight members of the road and family back in April 2016.

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Mike Allen, a criminal defense attorney and legal commentator for Fox 19 in Cincinnati, was covering the story when the news broke.

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All the arrests happened within minutes of each other, and that tells me that the BCI, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification, who was in charge of this investigation, they they know what they're doing and they wanted to make sure that they effected these arrests without any kind of problems or tipping anybody off. So they had that thing down pretty tight. You've got four people charged in the murders themselves. It's educated murder, and that's capital murder in the state of Ohio.

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That that does they have the death penalty as a possible penalty in a case like this. So it is a death penalty case.

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How rare is it to have multiple capital murder cases going? I haven't seen four people up for capital murder in Ohio before.

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You know what? And I've been in the system for over 50 years. And I've I mean, the most I've seen were two co-defendants not being tried for capital murder from the same set of facts, but never four. So that is extremely rare that you got four people, four defendants facing the death penalty.

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The charges for the two other family members were less severe grandmother Frederica Wagner, Billy Wagner's mother, was charged with obstruction of justice and perjury. Angela Wagner's mother, Rita Newcome, was charged with forgery, perjury and obstruction of justice. But to Mike Allen, one charge brought against the alleged trigger pullers makes one thing clear, they're also charged with conspiracy, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, which means that they all work together on this. I think it's obvious, at least to the prosecutors and the investigators, that this thing was nobody freelancing.

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They were possibly all operating together, tampering with evidence that kind of speaks for itself. I mean, once they knew that they were the focus of the investigation, perhaps they did something with the evidence. We're going to take a quick break here, we'll be back in a moment. Hey, everybody, it's been Higgins' and it's Ashlei, and we're the host of the almost famous podcast, I Was The Bachelorette and know first hand how dating twenty five people at one time is not easy.

[00:11:13]

And I was on the show a time or two or four. Yep, four times. But I met my husband, so I'm proof that the process works. We do interviews with the cast members creating the headlines. We go in-depth about their experiences on the show and we get juicy details that they would never air. We break down the episodes each week and give our insight into the drama. Believe me, it's not always how it seems. And we're able to give you the insider perspective since we've been there.

[00:11:41]

Yeah, four times. The Bachelor cast doesn't just stir up drama on screen. Their personal lives are always making the pages of the magazine. And we update you every week on these hot topics. And we know pretty much everyone. So we're a reliable source. Listen to Almost Famous on the I Heart radio app, on Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcasts.

[00:12:03]

What happens when two therapists walk into a podcast and then hold people accountable for their advice? Hey, I'm Lori Gottlieb. I write the dear therapist advice column for The Atlantic and I'm Guy, which I write the Dear Guy advice column for Ted. And we're the hosts of a new podcast from radio called Dear Therapist.

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One of the most frustrating things for us is advice columnist is that afterward no one gets to hear how the advice worked out.

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But on our show you will be guide people through a consultation and then have them come back and tell us what worked or didn't and what we can all learn from it.

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I was raised in a generation where men didn't show emotion. I am not good at words, but going through it has helped me grow in that sense.

[00:12:51]

I've been dating a single dad for two years and his daughter, the six year old. She hates me one minute and loves me 10 minutes later.

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I don't want to lose sight of the negative feelings that I caused her. I just hope that at some point she can forgive me.

[00:13:04]

If you'd like to walk into our podcast, email us with your dilemma at Laury and Guy at Eyup Media Dotcom.

[00:13:11]

Listen to dear therapists on Apple podcasts, the I Heart Radio app, or wherever you get your podcasts. We needed to know more about the Rodin's and the accused, the Wagners, we also wanted to be invited to learn about the town. So Stephanie, Jeff and I flew to Ohio. There was this extremely eerie vibe to the town, there definitely was a sense that something very big was happening real time. It almost felt it felt a little dangerous.

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I think eeriness, as you said, is the best word, like just something was not right.

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Yeah, and it's not uncommon. It was a perfect American small town. Right. There's one diner. There's not a movie theater. So, again, small, insulated.

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And, you know, we just we just started trying to go door to door to meet anyone who could tell us about the rodent family. I would say every single person we spoke to legitimately invited us inside and could not have been lovelier. There also was the experience of knocking on doors, knowing very well people are there. We there was smoke coming out of the chimney. We physically saw the curtains be closed and certain people understandably didn't want to speak to us.

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But those who did, they were so welcoming.

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We reached out to journalist Jeff Winckler, who was doing research on the Wagner family for me personally, when I first got an idea of how the Rodin's lived and, you know, who was related to who and whatnot, I think I originally had the sense that the Wagners were in the same sort of position in terms of property and and and perhaps financial situation will not. But the Wagners, I was rather surprised to learn that they had, you know, a huge farm.

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They'd been running various farm businesses on this huge bit of land or landlords. And there were there were something of a sort of some sort of a family, if you will, in the area. And, you know, there were people that they they we spoke with that had some very open thoughts and loving thoughts about the family.

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In all this, we couldn't help wonder how could this esteemed PYKEN family allegedly be responsible for Ohio's most horrific murder? It seemed like everyone had an opinion. Here's Angie Montgomery, a Python resident when the Wagners were arrested. You had your 50 50. You had people that said, yes, I knew that they did that. And then you've got people that say there's no way those people did not. But we wanted to get the story for ourselves to talk to those who actually knew the people accused of carrying out these ruthless murders.

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Hello. Hi, Dora, it's Jeff Shane calling. Hi. Hi, how are you? Is now a good time? Yeah, this is Terry McAuliffe.

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She's Billy Wagner's cousin, and she grew up with the Wagners. Were you close with Billy?

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Billy was quite a bit younger than me. I was about 11 years old when Billy was born, but I was raised with him and we had a whole lot of fun.

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It was so much fun. We all bred horses and we lived in Ohio and it was beautiful and it snowed in the winter time and it was beautiful in the summer. And we just had so much fun. It was unbelievable.

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He was like a really good dad, right? Like a hard working, just like sturdy the good person. Right.

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All for his family. I'm all for his family. Durras depiction of her aunt, Frederico Wagner was just as glowing.

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I spent my summers with my aunt Frederica and it was awesome because we rode horses, we rode ponies, did all kinds of awesome stuff.

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I've heard the nicest things about her, that she was like an angel in that town. She had to have been an angel in that town because what I seen for her, what she did for the community, she built a church for the community. She financed the church for the community.

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She loved people. She loves children.

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But we were curious what to think about the charges against her family. Our family joke is that there's no way that Betty Crocker in the Doughboy's could ever go to an extreme of murder. It's not within their capabilities. They love animals and they love people and they are really good at being resilient.

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And if you look up the word hillbilly. And you really researched that word. They were very resilient and taking care of their family. Somebody did it, but it wasn't them. To get more information on twenty seven year old George and twenty six year old Jake Wagner, Angela and Billy Wagner sons, we reached out to Kristina Howard. Christina's sister Tabitha was married to George Wagner. The pair later divorced. Kristina spoke with Stephanie Lydecker about the time she spent with the Wagner family.

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My sister spent a lot of time over at George's house before they got married. She was pretty much living with them at the time before she got married. And then after she got married, she moved in with him. And I used to go over there to their house every now and then, you know.

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And did he seem like a nice guy? What was his demeanor like?

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Oh, it was funny. He was always cracking jokes and stuff all the time.

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So I don't know much about Jake Wagner at all. What was he like as a kid? He was actually really sweet as a kid. We got along pretty good because, you know, we just hung out all the time, played video games, went outside. Was he shy?

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He wasn't shy with me. He was a really nice kid. And while growing up, my sisters were kind of bullies to me and me. She was dating George at the time and time. She would pick on me and Jake. He would take that for me. But like, I don't pick on your little sister like that which made himself.

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Here's a Wagner family relative. She asked us not to use her name, but was happy to talk to us about the family, she remembers Angela Wagner as a caring mother with a big heart.

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I was just so sweet, like she was the sweetest lady. I mean, anybody could ask her for help. I know there was multiple times where there was just she had heard of it. There was a woman and her daughter that was getting out of an abusive relationship. And Angela had just heard about it. She didn't know this lady. You know, she had no idea anything about her. She just knew that this woman and her daughter, you know, needed help.

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So Angela went and helped her get out of that. You know, she she gave a place to stay. She made sure that the daughter had clothes and food. And, you know, she would always do stuff like that for people. Everything we were hearing about the Waggner seemed at odds with this image of the cold blooded killers accused of murdering an entire family. But the deeper we dug, the more secrets we began to find. Jeff, continue speaking with the same anonymous Waggner relative who speaks so glowingly of Angela Wagner, as it turns out, not everyone in the Wagner family has such a sterling reputation.

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And when the conversation shifts to Billy Wagner, things take a turn. Here is the Wagner relatives first hand account. Do you know when she met Billy and when that when they got married and how that relationship started and progressed?

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Yeah, that was she has there with him for 20 something years, maybe longer. But as far as he goes now, that's a different like I and my family, we always kind of thought something was like off with him. We never we never got to connect with him in that way. We always everybody always kind of knew that there was something strange or that he was kind of he just had this persona about him, like he was just very cold and hateful person really is what I thought of and ways he was just a very rough around the edges guy.

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And when it comes to him and Angela, I'm not sure really on how the beginning of a relationship was. But I know towards the end, like before, you know, right after all this happened, he was just very controlling, very controlling. He she was afraid of him, extremely afraid of him, as were the boys. Now, their oldest son, George, him and his dad, they were kind of like the same. I guess I just I don't believe that they're good people at all.

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So what can you tell me about the relationship between Angela and Billy Wagner? I do know that he was she was extremely she was just afraid to leave. You know, she was afraid to leave. She was terrified that if she did try to leave, that he would find her because he made that very clear. You know, from what I've heard and what her father had said, all applications like, you know, you're not going to leave. Let's stop here for another quick break.

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We'll be back in a moment. Hi, I'm Heidi Murkoff, host of What to Expect, a new podcast from My Heart Radio when I first wrote What to Expect When You're Expecting my mission was simple to help parents know what to expect every step of the way on what to expect will answer your biggest pregnancy and parenting questions about everything from preconception planning to birth plan. Newborns sleep to toddler tantrums. Motherhood is the ultimate sisterhood, but it can be overwhelming if you don't know what to expect.

[00:23:54]

Listen to what to expect on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcasts. Hi, I'm Holly Fry. And I'm Tracy B. Wilson, and together we host a show called Stuff You Missed in History Class.

[00:24:12]

As the name suggests, we talk about some things that maybe either you didn't remember from history class or they weren't covered at all. There have always been women in history. There have always been black people and other people of color. There have always been people all over the LGBTQ spectrum as a part of the historical record. Tracy, we've had some really interesting episodes recently. What's one of your favorites? The history of beekeeping, which we had to abridge, because that's very involved.

[00:24:39]

How about you?

[00:24:40]

I really, really enjoyed researching our episode on Seneca Village, which was a settlement in what became Central Park that was mostly populated by black people who actually owned the property there. And unfortunately, their time there was kind of a race. So if this kind of material sounds good to you, come listen to the show. We have new episodes on Mondays and Wednesdays and then a behind the scenes Minnesota on Friday and a bonus classic episode from the archive on Saturday.

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You can find us on the I Heart radio app and Apple podcast or wherever it is you listen.

[00:25:19]

This account of Angela and Billy's relationship piqued our curiosity, so we started poking around for more information about the Wagners, most of what we uncovered had to do with grandmother Frederico Wagner, Billy Wagner's mother, and what seemed to be some potentially questionable business practices. I followed up with journalist Jeff Winckler to find out more.

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Fredricka, Wagner was repeatedly referred to as a God fearing woman, was running a nursing home and doing a lot of community service and community care for people. But like the Wagners, had a lot of different sides to them.

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Exactly. And she had started a church as well. And she took underprivileged kids. If people need groceries, she brought them groceries to there is all of that. And then on the flip side, many other people say they were very secretive. There's also allegations of, for example, in the nursing home, maybe some dishonest business and perhaps cheating people who were at a disadvantage out of money. And these are substantiated court documents.

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Yeah, the longer we looked into it, the longer it seemed like the Wagners, you know, apart from having property and been there for a long time, they were wheeling and dealing. And I think although they were sort of pillars of the community involved in the community, certainly I think that sort of especially when you have that sort of much to lose, you get protective.

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Fredricka, Wagner had very much built the family business for Jake Wagner was the one who kept the family business going. She kept the family business is on track. And, well, you know, when you are building an empire, the last thing you want to do is to see it fall. And they were working on their fourth generation of Wagner dominance in the area. So I can definitely understand sort of protectiveness of that. And in those cases, you know, maybe you close maybe you close ranks a little bit.

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You stick your stick to Kim. You know, blood is thicker than water. As we talk to more people in the community, we found that these rumblings about the Waggoner's business practices had been circulating for years and somehow the deep distrust of the family and their once sterling reputation. Jeff got Barbara's thoughts about grandmother Frederico Wagner.

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All I've ever heard about her is one. I've heard how wonderful she is, how generous she was. I never heard a bad word about that woman, but just, you know, she knew what she was doing and she just did what she could do to keep them from being guilty, to keep them from being found guilty or from being arrested. You know what I mean? Yeah.

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They seemed like everyone was on the surface, like everyone loved them. And then when this happens, all the other dirt kind of starts coming out.

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It's like I can see beneath that surface, you know, I feel like I can see her heart when I look at her. I just see. So I just kind of see evil.

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But while Fredricka, Wagner may have been involved in some questionable business dealings and to some accounts, Billy Wagner may not have been the best husband. We still didn't know what all this had to do with the rodent's. At their arraignment, all six members of the Waggner family pled not guilty to all charges. It is worth noting, however, that the charges against Frederico Waggner were eventually dropped and Rita Joe ended up taking a plea deal. There's more to tell on these grandmother stories, but we'll get to all that later.

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According to official court documents, all four of the Wagner family are considered trigger pullers, meaning each one of them had a hand in killing the rodents that night, which means they drove house to house, one at a time, killing eight people. It's also been speculated that Angela Wagner was really the mastermind of this whole plan. When you look at her picture, for example, her mug shot, she just looks like a regular mom that you would see at the market.

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She doesn't at all fit the profile that I have in my head of what a serial killer or a mass murderer should look like. And if she did do this, why did she put this plan together? Because she wanted to protect her own family. And if so, the irony is, if she's found guilty because they're all being tried separately, she may never cross paths with her husband or her sons ever again. You know, we obviously wanted to go back and see what was the lead up, what brought us to this point and what was the intersection between the road and family in the Wagner family.

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We got very curious about the relationship between Jake Wagner and Hannah Rowden. Here's the anonymous Wagner relative again, Jake.

[00:30:23]

He had got involved with with Hannah Logan. Hannah Roden is the middle road and child and murder victim. She was found dead in bed next to her five day old baby Caylee. She shared a child with Jake Wagner, a two and a half year old daughter named Sofia. Eventually, you know, they had separated and everything that they had separated.

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I guess I'd term it seemed that the demise of their relationship had sparked an ugly custody battle surrounding Sophia Hannah. She was refusing to allow him to see her, get her or any of the family to see her. And so it kind of just it got out of hand at that point. It just set him off to the point where, Jake, he had made the comment that he was going to kill her.

[00:31:22]

Next time on the Python massacre. 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 Katy Studios. For more podcasts from my Heart Radio, visit the I Heart Radio app, Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to your favorite shows. What happens after an advice columnist signs off on our new show, Dear Therapist for My Heart Radio, we find out.

[00:32:02]

I'm Lori Gottlieb from The Atlantic and I'm guy from Ted.

[00:32:05]

And each week we sit down with a listener for a consultation. Then we ask them to come back on and tell us what happened. You can email us with your own dilemma at Lorean guy at, I hope, media dot com.

[00:32:17]

Listen to dear therapists on Apple podcast, the I Heart Radio app, or wherever you get your podcasts. Buckle up for an unfiltered dose of comedy. Full disclosure, I've had a lot of sex, but honestly, having sex with me is like buying a Prius.

[00:32:36]

Much quieter than you'd expect. Ethics presents unprotected sex. Listen to me. I heard radio out podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. Up.