By Kantele Franko, Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The southern Ohio sheriff known for investigating the slayings of eight people from one family was indicted Friday on felony charges including evidence-tampering and theft in office after authorities looked into an anonymous complaint that he stole money seized in drug cases.
A grand jury indicted Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader on 16 counts, including misdemeanor conflict-of-interest charges alleging Reader misused his public office to obtain vehicles and sought or accepted thousands of dollars in loans from employees of his office and a county vendor.
Reader isn’t commenting, according to a statement from his office.
The Pike County court clerk had no attorney on record for the sheriff, who, at least for now, retains his job and remains free ahead of his arraignment scheduled for Tuesday. A message was left for attorney James Boulger, who has spoken for Reader in the matter and previously told The Columbus Dispatch that borrowing money from friends isn’t a crime.
The indictment, which offers little context about the allegations, also contains counts of theft, tampering with records and securing writings by deception.
A lawyer from Ohio Auditor Keith Faber’s office is the special prosecutor for the case, but neither he nor the office would elaborate on details of the allegations beyond what was in the indictment. The charges followed an investigation that began with a complaint in November.
“It is our job to hold public officials accountable and root out fraud, waste, and abuse in our communities,” Faber said in a written statement. “We do not take these charges lightly and recognize that no one is above the law.”
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said the sheriff’s indictment won’t impact the pending murder cases against the four suspects who have been charged in the gruesome 2016 shootings of eight people from the Rhoden family, the case that put Reader in the national spotlight.
Authorities allege George “Billy” Wagner III, his wife, Angela Wagner, and their sons, George Wagner and Edward “Jake” Wagner, planned the attack for months. All four have pleaded not guilty in the potential death-penalty cases.
Investigators have suggested that a custody dispute between Jake Wagner and one of the victims was a possible motive for the slayings, which put residents on edge in that pocket of southern Ohio as rumors circulated that it was a drug hit.