The perils of ingratitude—A Thanksgiving admonition

ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS | 11/22/2018, midnight
Thanksgiving, America’s homegrown national holiday, stands out for honoring the precious native people who welcomed the settlers and helped them ...
Armstrong Williams

Thanksgiving, America’s homegrown national holiday, stands out for honoring the precious native people who welcomed the settlers and helped them in their time of need. It stands as a testament to the gratitude that we all share for the abundant blessings we each have in our lives. However, in some cases, Thanksgiving reminds us of the hidden perils of ingratitude and the untold horrors that can result when we fail to honor and thank our creator.

One such tragedy has weighed heavily upon the national conscience in recent days, after law enforcement officials in Pike Country, Ohio finally arrested suspects in connection with the murders of eight family members that had stumped investigators for more than two years. The Pike County murders of a mother, father, three children, a cousin and two other relatives, all killed in their sleep in carefully planned attacks over the course of one evening, was long thought to be related to the drug trade in which the family had long been engaged. Perhaps, it was even rumored, a Mexican drug cartel, angered by the family’s small marijuana grow operations, had shown up in rural Ohio and executed the dastardly plot.

But as time went on and nary a Mexican emerged as a suspect, law enforcement officials began to think that the culprits might be closer to home. Sophia Wagner was just 2 years old when prosecutors say her father joined the group of people who killed her mother and seven other family members. The entire Wagner family, including George “Billy” Wagner III, his wife, Angela Wagner, and their sons, George Wagner IV and Jake Wagner, was arrested last week. Each of the adult Wagners was charged with eight counts of aggravated murder and all are facing the death penalty. Charging documents cite a bitter child custody dispute over Sophia Wagner, not the families’ drug activities, as the primary motive for the crimes.

One might ask why eight members of a family needed to die to secure custody of one child. Well that is where things get particularly evil. Prosecutors allege all eight needed to die because they might have had a claim to Sophia’s custody in the event that her mother (who was killed in the mass murder) died. Therefore, to secure custody of Sophia, the Wagners took out anyone who might conceivably have a custody claim.

They say hindsight is 20/20, but in this case even a tiny bit of foresight might have helped. How in the world did these people believe that they would be able to get away with committing eight murders of a single family across three crime scenes? In the ensuing two years before last week’s arrest, the Wagner family faced intense suspicion among community members of tight-knit Pike County, so much so that at one point they even moved to Alaska to try to escape the scrutiny. Was the overreaction to a custody dispute worth all of the inconvenience and stress the accused faced?

Now that they have all been caught (including the grandmothers of the accused who have been charged as accessories after the fact), what will their relationship with Sophia be going forward? Likely, they will never see or speak to Sophia again, and they will each end up in solitary prison cells until their appeals have been exhausted or until they die in prison—alone, on death row shamed, condemned and alone. The details of this tawdry tale are sure to emerge as the trial approaches, but the lesson is clear: be thankful for what you have and avoid the temptation to covet the possessions of others.