Her with the Menagh Brown is a weekly podcast brought to you by Cynical Women Podcast Network and I Heart Radio. I'm your host, Amena Brown. And each week I'm bringing you hilarious storytelling and soulful conversation, centering the stories of black, indigenous, Latino and Asian women. Each week we are going to laugh, consider and reflect upon the times. Join me as we remind each other to access joy, affect change and be inspired. Listen to her with Amina Brown on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcasts.
Paper Ghosts is a true crime podcast that investigates the search for the person responsible for the abductions of four missing girls in neighboring New England towns for more than 50 years. Each case as remain unsolved. Jesus, Mary and Josephine hope that's brave for many of you know what I think it is. Listen to paper ghosts on the radio app, Apple podcast, or wherever you get your podcasts, welcome to the Pectin Massacre, a production of I Heart Radio and Katy Studios.
This is Episode 10 Wild Country. In this episode, we're going to be answering a bunch of questions we've received over social media. We are also going to be going deeper into some subjects we've only touched on and talking about some stories we haven't been able to tell. I'm Courtney Armstrong.
I work at Katie's studios with Stephanie Lydecker and Jeff Ch'ien. Just as a legal reminder, Angela, Billy, Jake 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.
Ali from Ormond Beach, Florida, asked us about the drugs and how they relate to the case and if there's anything else in the act, an area that pertains to drugs that we should know.
So one of the big theories behind the murder is we explored was drugs and the fact that the Rodin's did have a pretty large marijuana grow operation on their property. But it's not just specific to the Rowden or even specific to Picart in the immediate area is kind of a a hotbed that's been affected by drugs in myriad ways.
For starters, there's not a ton of jobs and that has really taken a toll on the town.
And just generally speaking, Ohio and the southern part of the state has been devastated by drug abuse, mostly prescription painkillers and heroin.
In Pike County, the drug overdose mortality rate from twenty fourteen to twenty eighteen was more than seventy one deaths per 100000 population. The rate for the rest of the country was 27 deaths per 100000. That's nearly three times the mortality rate of the rest of the country.
A lot of these drugs come in from Portsmouth, Portsmouth, Ohio, is the neighboring town to and so about a 15 minute drive. I spoke to investigative reporter James Peltzer, who did an incredibly deep dive into Portsmouth, into the larger picture of what's happening in southeastern Ohio, Portsmouth, which is in the next county over on the river south of Pike County.
And Hampikian is known as ground zero for the pill mill epidemic. That's where pill mills and the opioid epidemic is known to have had a major hot spot way early on in the late 1990s, early 2000s, when OxyContin first hit the market.
And tell me what a pill mill is. A pill mill is where a doctor who, for whatever reason, isn't there to see clients. Somebody just shows up and you just has a prescription for money and then they get the prescription there. And then right next door is a pharmacy and then they just put it in and then those people get the pills because it's legal in that state. They might drive them home to Florida and then sell them for 10 times the price or trade them or whatever.
But it was unregulated in Ohio at the time, and Kentucky was bad to Kentucky had the same issues. So right there in Portsmouth, right there on the Ohio River bordering Kentucky. So you had both sides of the river. So there were cars lined up from Florida and West Virginia and Georgia up and down all over town for a decade. And it just ravaged the city, which had already been decimated by, you know, the pull out of industrialization.
And so all of that kind of flooded in. You have all of these, you know, an economically depressed area. All of a sudden, addiction becomes a major, major issue. People are driving from all over the country because it's easy to get the pills there.
And then, of course, there's also the people who get into kind of the illicit activities to make money, right?
Absolutely. Absolutely. A cottage industry of crime and drug associated crime kind of sprung up. And, you know, started to do my own reporting on it, so one of our editors worked as the managing editor of the Portsmouth Daily Times, which is the daily newspaper there in the early 2010s. And so he was very familiar with the rumors that have been circulating around about Michael Moran. Moran had already been a city councilman, but he wasn't on city council anymore.
But he was still well known within the legal circles and Chamber of Commerce. And he did some work, pro bono work about legal defense.
But he always seemed to have a pretty girl on his arm in December of twenty eighteen and now former reporter with that newspaper put out on Facebook segments of a federal affidavit from the Drug Enforcement Administration, which basically laid bare and put out for public viewing. That's the federal law enforcement was investigating the very same rumors that have been following Moran around for years, that he was running girls and running drugs and that this was who he was.
It's important to note that Michael Moran has not been arrested or charged with any crimes, also that Moran has categorically denied all of this.
My editor at the time and I was working as investigative reporter at the Cincinnati Enquirer said, would you be interested in taking a look at this? And I'll be honest, I thought I didn't think it was real at first. I thought there was no way that this is as bad as they say it is and whatever. So I took a drive out there. Are they partner, partner me with a woman photographer who we went out there a couple of times and they'll never forget it.
We were doing some B roll shoot shots in front of a pseudo abandoned shoe factory with graffiti about hookers and things like that. And a guy comes running up and says, What are you doing? And I told them and I said, By the way, have you ever heard of Michael? Morenae says, Oh, yeah, that guy runs women. So this was not a secret in Portsmouth. Everybody knew the rumors and had known somebody that knew somebody that had worked for him, it was going on that he was running women all over the country.
He was promising women drugs for sex. He had relationships with judges and with members of law enforcement, all of it. So, you know, all of this is in this federal document.
We're talking about the human trafficking, right? Yes. So so, you know, some people say this is an interesting distinction. Some people say, oh, well, these women knew what they were doing. They were just trying to make money. Well, if you talk to the experts, it went one step beyond that. It went into trafficking because Moran was holding over them a the fact that they were drug addicts and that he would withhold their money or withhold their wherewithal to get drugs, which under federal statute in Ohio statute is a, form of trafficking.
B, he was intensively promising more lenient sentences because he had friends in the legal system. I'd like to point out here that we reached out to Michael Moran as well as the prosecutors involved, neither side got back to us with comment.
So I talked to some folks. But getting those first initial people to talk, that was their big fear is they say these women just weren't free to go to jail. They were afraid for their lives. And the reason they were afraid for their lives is, is the name of one woman. And that's Megan Lancaster. Megan was a known prostitute in the late 2000s in Sierra County. If you talk to her sister in law and you talk to other people who knew her, she worked for Mike Moran.
Megan got hooked on drugs early on in high school shortly after high school. If you talk to her sister in law who has led the charge, she started partying later in high school and then out of high school. And that led her into, according to our sources, into the circle of Moran. Some Moran would hire her out for bachelor parties. And, you know, Katie Lancaster, her sister in law, even tells the story about her running into Megan, wearing Christmas lingerie in a Wal-Mart, picking something up on her way to a Christmas party where she was the entertainment for a bunch of Moran's friends, and she mysteriously disappeared.
So we can't ever say she was murdered.
Her car was found with blood on it. The door was left wide open, half parked in a local fast food joint there in downtown Portsmouth. And they have not found hide nor hair of her, and I can tell you there are a lot of places in Shiota County where you can hide a body. It's full of hollers and dips and in forests. And it's this wild country. It really is wild country. The glaciers came through and cut a bunch of stuff.
And it's it's beautiful, but it's also wild country. And a slew of women went went missing or got killed that were addicted prostitutes, sex workers up in Ross County in Chillicothe, which is two counties to the north. Since 2010, more than a dozen women have either been killed or gone missing in Ross County, which is the county north of Pike County, which is probably an hour, 45 minutes north of Python in Chillicothe. So, Megan, a lot of people theorize the Meggan might have been wrapped up in something that got those women killed.
But there's a lot of thought and there's a lot of theory or rumor that, no, that that was separate from what happened to her and what happened to her points back to possibly Michael Marine, that he would want to silence her for some reason. Yeah, these are powerful men taking advantage of addicted, unempowered women.
And so how would you like Michael Moran in tying this back to the road in case Michael Moran and the situation in Portsmouth, I think, just speaks to this community, which I think includes then, as you know, these men in power are kind of doing what they want.
And, you know, when you look at Sheriff Reidar, who handled the investigation for the road and murder, he was also doing what he wanted. You know, now he's indicted on all these charges of, you know, theft from the county. Yeah. And so, you know, you can see the parallel if you're wanting to make a parallel drug case is absolutely either, A, you had ineffectual or corrupt or both law enforcement. Right. You had a community or a culture of lawlessness that has descended on upon many places in rural America.
I will also say there's a major issue in small town America with the quality and quantity of law enforcement that happens there and the lack of accountability because nobody's watching.
You might be wondering how the crimes in Portsmouth fit into the road and family case, while we probably know that Michael Moran and what's happening in Portsmouth is not directly related to the road murders.
It does speak to the distrust and lack of accountability in law enforcement. It's this idea that all these men in power, from judges to attorneys, are involved in these crimes and their cover ups. It raises a pretty unnerving question. Who do you trust if you can't trust elected officials and law enforcement? Furthermore, this influx of drugs and lack of accountability from law enforcement and the haphazard way pectin and authorities tried to cover some seemingly very important evidence is basically exactly what reporter James Pilcher outlined so well in his work.
Yeah, it seems really systemic in the area and specifically to pectin, and that impacts everything from the top down. Let's stop here for a quick commercial break. We'll be back in a moment. High people to get here, maybe you know me as mayor put in my new podcast, I'll be talking to people from every field whose ideas and actions will shape an era that is about to begin.
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Hi, this is Melanne Verveer and this is Kim Mazzarelli and we're co-hosts of Senecas Conversations on Power and Purpose, brought to you by the Seneca Women Podcast Network and I Heart Radio.
We're launching a brand new season of this podcast, which brings you fascinating conversations with leaders like two time gold medalist, author and activist Abby Wambach and actor, producer and entrepreneur Justin Baldoni, among many others. Listen to Senecas conversations on power and purpose on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. Mike Allen from Hoboken, New Jersey, asked if there were any other personal stories we'd heard from people along the way that hadn't made it into the podcast, and here are a few that stand out to us.
The relationship between Frederica Wagner and Angela Wagner, her daughter in law, has been the basis of a lot of conversation that it was a troubled relationship and that Angela and her husband were vicious fighters. And we even have heard from a very close source that Angela would actually have to put a little sedative in. Billy Wagner shakes every day because that would lower his temper and that's how she would survive the day. It just paints a picture whether this is true or not.
Here, Angela enters the Wagner family. She's feuding with her now mother in law, the matriarch of the family, Frederica, her husband. I don't know how tall he actually is, but he's a tall presence of a man and, you know, allegedly hot tempered. So Angela is trying to survive this new dynamic, home schooling her boys and sedating her husband and feuding with her mother in law. It just paints a very complicated picture. It does.
And because I can be pedantic of allegedly drugging her, allegedly.
But other stuff we did hear because I spoke to the same person who was a family member, it was someone who was a family. They were there. This is apparently first hand account.
Correct. And part of that, which I thought also painted such an interesting picture was, like you said, the Wagners were known fairly widely to have get into it with the fights.
And what this source said to us was that she was at the family home at the Wagner family home, and she commented that Angela had very many decorative baskets all over. And she said, those are very beautiful. And and Angela allegedly said, well, every time we get into a fight and she needs to apologize, he buys me another basket because I like him. And so just picturing this house filled with decorative baskets, each one emblematic of an argument, just an interesting picture.
Here's a rich question, and it comes from Aaron from Malvern, New York, and she asks how to sheriff reader play into the investigations and how might he play into the upcoming court trials?
He complicates this. I mean, he's been accused of many things in court documents filed just last month. They allege Rader of misappropriating about 15000 dollars in seize funds and borrowing 6000 dollars from employees, which can be seen as coercion. The records also accuse him of circumventing rules at auctions to improperly get impounded vehicles for his family. So to his benefit.
Additionally, the court alleges that Reider on June 2017 seized seven thousand dollars that prosecutors call, quote, possible proceeds of drug trafficking. So these are charges that have gone for several years and there's even new allegations that charge him and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, which is a first degree felony. And prosecutors have long used the charge as a way to attack organized crime figures and major drug dealers by seeking long prison sentences. So the fact that they're using this against a sheriff is interesting strategy.
You know, the issue is now that his character is being called into question and according to sources we've talked to, the criminal justice experts agree that the that if Reidar is found of any wrongdoing, it could pose obstacles for the prosecution in the trials against the Waggoner's reader was the front man of making everybody feel at ease that the investigation was being handled, but frankly, was kind of doing a messy job from the jump.
Yeah, I mean, in theory, you could look at every single case Sheriff Reidar took the lead on and wonder what he was doing behind the scenes in order to make an arrest, which would include the rodent. An investigation. On the other side of that, though, you know, what experts are saying is that the prosecution might argue to the judge on the case that Rita's criminal history isn't relevant to the Waggner trials and thus shouldn't be heard by a jury.
And they'll do that by downplaying his role in the investigation. And if that becomes the case, then it won't necessarily be a death blow to the state's case. Another expert was quoted as saying in the press, officers are human beings like everybody else. And so sometimes juries can weigh in on that and decide what kind of credence they want to give to his behavior.
Sheriff Ritter also potentially jeopardize the investigation by having the rodents, cars and mobile homes moved off site, which attorney Mike Allen and investigative reporter Jody Barr talked about in Episode five. So Sheriff Ritter's involvement is far reaching and it has the potential to affect in multiple ways, not only during the investigation, but moving forward with the trials.
Yeah, there was something else early on in the investigation that happened that really did cause a stir. And that's the road an autopsy reports. And for some reason, these were held up and being released to the media outlets, which is something that happens occasionally in criminal cases. But it garnered a lot of attention. And specifically with the Rowden case, probably the reason why is oftentimes autopsies are not released to the public because there might be a tell or something very significant in those autopsy reports.
For example, this is just type of head not related to the Wagner or case at all. If somebody had a certain tattoo marking or had been cut in a certain way that only the perpetrator killer would know, then authorities don't want that information to be wildly known because it's something that would be helpful to know if there was a confession, for example. So if somebody confessed, they would know that information. So that is not entirely uncommon, although in this case it seems that was not the reason why.
Yeah, it's speculated that it's not the reason why. And this is this one actually all the way up to the Ohio Supreme Court, to outlets, The Columbus Dispatch and the Cincinnati Enquirer sued the state for the right to the autopsies.
The suit was filed against the Pike County coroner, David Kessler, and that came after the dispatch was denied three separate times, officially asking for the final autopsy reports. And what the dispatcher's claim was, was that the final autopsy reports are of great public interest and, quote, significant value to the dispatch and our news gathering activities.
The authorities really were apprehensive to release the autopsy information, arguing that the release could hinder the investigation.
I wonder just to harp on this a little longer, like what was the city like? What was Pike County really trying to protect? You know, four to three times? Seems like a lot of times to continue to fight the release of this. And now that we know what they say, like what in there was so damning to the investigation, you know, it's just like seems like a lot.
Well, I actually spoke with Attorney Jack Grainier, and he was one of the lawyers who filed the suit on behalf of the dispatch, and he had some really compelling thoughts.
You have to kind of wonder in light of the troubles that the sheriff ultimately got into what was motivating the desire to keep things kind of quiet, because this is a pretty good example of, in my view, law enforcement overreacting. And I say that kind of cautiously because, you know, I say it was multiple murders and a gruesome situation. But I think the idea of, you know, you just have to withhold as much information as you possibly can from the public and even maybe more information that you're allowed to withhold is, to me, an overreaction.
And I think we saw that in this case, you know, that somehow if any piece of information got out there would somehow derail the whole investigation. I just I just don't buy into that.
The Enquirer really argued that it was in the public's best interest to know what the autopsy said and to review, I mean, what we learned from the autopsies is pretty important in terms of what happened to the Rodin's. We learned how many times they were shot, where they were shot, which really did speak to how personal the crimes were. Some of these family members were shot multiple times in the face with a shotgun. And so if this was a drug cartel hit, you know, it wasn't once and quick.
It was personal and it was an overkill, which is what we learn from the autopsies once these autopsies would be released. Here we go again, more questions with few answers. And sure enough, that's exactly what happened. Thankfully, we have this information and we could actually really look at these autopsy reports in great detail. And I can speak for myself saying it was really dark and twisted. When you really do see just how much to your point, Jeff, of an overkill?
This really was. Yeah, it made me think like what releasing this autopsy would do to the town of Pictet.
And in speaking to a fair amount of the residents and just the feeling of uncertainty, I don't know how it would if it was a good thing or a bad thing, because the people in Pickton were thinking it was a drug cartel who did this prior to the autopsy release, and that created a sense of fear. But then I think after the autopsies were released, people started circling in on the Wagners and really thinking they did it, which created a whole other set of problems in terms of this kind of small town justice that the Wagners faced.
Whether they deserve it or not creates a whole new problem for the sheriff's office.
Let's stop here for another quick break. We'll be back in a moment. A ravenous pandemic, a ruinous recession, protest, riots, racial strife, police brutality and yes, Donald Trump America in 2020 feels like Apocalypse Now. Again, I'm John Heilemann and in hell and high water.
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Her with the Brown is a weekly podcast brought to you by Cynical Women Podcast Network and I Heart Radio. I'm your host, Amina Brown.
And each week I'm bringing you hilarious storytelling and soulful conversation, all centering the stories of black, indigenous, Latino and Asian women. Each week we are going to laugh, consider and reflect upon the times. Join me as we remind each other to access joy, affect change and be inspired. Listen to her with Amina Brown on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcast.
So we were talking about the informant, which we've covered in the past, but I know there has been some other questions out there.
Yeah, so Woody from Comac, New York, asked us on social media about the likelihood that the informant is, in fact, one of the Waggner four.
I'm obsessed with understanding more about the informant personally. So you definitely think it must be a family member who turned must is a strong statement.
I think the likelihood I think it seems likely only because if this family allegedly did commit this careful, careful, planned out murders that they spent months planning, why would they then be so careless and have someone else involved enough with the information that they could turn state's evidence? So to me, it's as if they kept it all within the family than necessarily it would have to be someone in the family. It's unknowable at this point, but that's what makes sense to me.
Is it possible that it's Rita Angela Wagner's mother, because she would have been witness to some of these conversations? I mean, it's possible that it's any of them, assuming it's one of the four.
Let's just play this out for a second. If Courtney if you're correct and it's one of the four of the Wagners that are the accused to me, if one of them was going to fold, George, the eldest son, seems the most likely. And for that I say simply because he had the least amount of skin in the game. If he wasn't fighting for his niece solely, you know, he wasn't, you know, maybe supercharged by love the way Jake was he was in supercharged about protecting his children the way Angela maybe was about her son, Jake, and her granddaughter.
We know the dad's potentially had some sort of a confrontation leading up that could be, you know, charged by emotion. But that said, he turns now. He's the one asking for solitary confinement and the Bible, the fact that they were trying to get George Wagner off on bail very recently, that would speak to this as well, that he's the informant be just through the basic ways that you would be released from prison on bail. They made that attempt.
It was unsuccessful on the behalf of the defense. But that is interesting strategy. By the way, how shocking would this be if George Wagner, the eldest son, had to actually appear in court and testify against his mother and his father and his younger brother, Jake? That would be shocking. So while it is all speculation, it is all possible. And several reputable sources have said it's not the most unlikely thing.
Just as a legal reminder, Angela, Billy, Jake and George Wagner were charged with aggravated murder. Angela Wagner's mother, religion 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.
Jody Barr, who we heard from throughout the course of this podcast, has summed up pretty well how the three of us feel about this case. So, I mean, this is a case that I think about it, I'm pretty sure every day. And again, that's why I'm very eager to hear from you. I just want to see this trial. I want to know more about what happened here and if they really do have the right people. Sounds like they do.
I mean, these indictments are very linked in great detail. But that's only one side of this. I want to hear from the Wagners and see if they have an explanation, because at the end of the day, when will this the last trial is held in the last jury if it gets to that point? You know, I would hope that the rodent's family can walk out of that courtroom and know for sure that the people who did this are the people who go to prison for it.
I can't think of a better way to handle justice. We've talked about this a lot and people ask us why we work in crime investigations in general, and I think the truth is victims have a voice even after death. And for us, we really do want to share our deepest sympathy with the road and family. I think the point of this podcast is to really angled towards shining a light on the injustices that the rodent family faced and help bring a sense of closure and answers to the surviving rodent family.
Well, I think also in the Wagners finally do have their day in court. Our hope is that the Rodin's finally see justice. 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 depicted 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.
Who could be responsible for murdering a family of five in the most horrific way imaginable?
That's what occurred when quiet night in Essex, England, in 1985, when police ruled that 28 year old Sheila Cofell murdered her parents and six year old twin boys before killing herself as evidence continued to surface. However, the truth revealed something even more sinister. I'm Lauren Bright Chikako. Join me as we go behind the crime scenes of the new HBO series, The Murders at White House Farm, as well as the infamous real life events that inspired it.
We'll talk to the people involved with the series and the case itself and find out why suspicion started to shift from Sheila to someone else and reflect on the fallout for all involved stream the murders at White House Farm now on Biomax and subscribe and listen to the murders at White House Farm, the podcast on the radio app, HBO, Max Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts, 20 years, nine Super Bowl appearances, six Super Bowl championships.
The New England Patriots have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are the greatest dynasty in NFL history. I'm Gary Myers, NFL sports journalist for over 40 years. Join me for a new podcast, The Goat, Tom Brady.
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