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This combination of undated photos provided by the Ohio Attorney General's office show Rita Newcomb, left, and Fredericka Wagner. Authorities announced Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018, that the two women have been arrested for impeding the investigation into the slayings of eight members of one family in rural Ohio two years ago. (Ohio Attorney General's office via AP)

This combination of undated photos provided by the Ohio Attorney General's office show Rita Newcomb, left, and Fredericka Wagner. Authorities announced Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018, that the two women have been arrested for impeding the investigation into the slayings of eight members of one family in rural Ohio two years ago. (Ohio Attorney General's office via AP)


Fredericka Wagner, 76, of Lucasville, Ohio, covers her face as she walks into the Pike County Courthouse for her arraignment Thursday, November 15, 2018 in Piketon, Ohio. Wagner, and Rita Newcomb, 65, of South Webster, are accused of perjury and obstructing justice for allegedly misleading investigators; Newcomb also is charged with forging custody documents to cover up the crimes. The women are mothers of Angela Wagner and George "Billy" Wagner and grandmothers of the Wagners' two sons, George Wagner IV and Edward "Jake" Wagner, who are facing murder charges. The killings took place in 2016. (Meg Vogel/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP)


Fredericka Wagner, 76, of Lucasville, Ohio,walks into the Pike County Courthouse for her arraignment Thursday, November 15, 2018 in Piketon, Ohio. Wagner, and Rita Newcomb, 65, of South Webster, are accused of perjury and obstructing justice for allegedly misleading investigators; Newcomb also is charged with forging custody documents to cover up the crimes. The women are mothers of Angela Wagner and George "Billy" Wagner and grandmothers of the Wagners' two sons, George Wagner IV and Edward "Jake" Wagner, who are facing murder charges. The killings took place in 2016. (Meg Vogel/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP)


Prosecutor: Ohio suspects talked revenge vs. investigators

By ANGIE WANG and ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS

Associated Press

Thursday, November 15

CINCINNATI (AP) — Two women who are the mothers of two suspects in the massacre of a family, and the grandmothers of the other two, pleaded not guilty Thursday to misleading investigators of the crime, which went without any arrests for more than two years.

During the court hearing, a special prosecutor said the four suspects in the 2016 killings that left eight dead met before they were arrested and talked about getting revenge against investigators, including the state’s top law official.

Fredericka Wagner, 76, and Rita Newcomb, 65, face felony charges of obstructing justice and perjury for impeding an investigation; Newcomb is also charged with forgery. A county judge set bond at $100,000 for Wagner and $50,000 for Rita Newcomb. If released, both would be placed on house arrest and monitored by electronic anklets.

On Tuesday, police arrested a family of four in the slayings of eight members of the Rhoden family. George “Billy” Wagner III, 47; his wife, 48-year-old Angela Wagner; and their sons, 27-year-old George Wagner and 26-year-old Edward Wagner, face aggravated murder charges and other counts that carry the possibility of a death sentence if they’re convicted.

An attorney for the family has said they will be vindicated.

Fredericka Wagner is the mother of Billy Wagner. Rita Newcomb is the mother of Angela Wagner.

Prosecutors said the two mothers are accused of lying to a grand jury but did not offer any specifics.

Newcomb’s attorney, Franklin Gerlach, portrayed his client as a grandmother living on Social Security. Wagner’s attorney, James Owen, said Thursday that his client “lived as close to the cross as anyone can” and taught Sunday school for decades.

A special prosecutor said during the hearing that a confidential informant told investigators that the four Wagners met at Fredericka Wagner’s home and talked about what they would do if anyone was arrested.

The discussion included escaping and getting revenge against investigators, including the county sheriff and Attorney General Mike Dewine, the prosecutor said.

Fredericka Wagner’s attorney did not directly respond to the prosecutor’s statement.

DeWine has given scant detail about why eight members of the Rhoden family — seven adults and a teenage boy — were found shot in the head in April 2016, other than saying the custody of a young child played a role.

One of the suspects, Edward “Jake” Wagner, was the longtime former boyfriend of 19-year-old Hanna Rhoden, one of the victims, and shared custody of their daughter. Family members say the girl, now 4, is in state custody.

Pike County Commissioner Tony Montgomery told the Columbus Dispatch the Rhoden case has cost the county some $600,000 to date, including about $200,000 for a secure building that housed the trailers and camper where the killings occurred. Montgomery said almost $140,000 was reimbursed by the state.

A death penalty case this size could be “extraordinarily complicated and difficult,” said Michael Benza, a Case Western Reserve University law professor who has also represented death penalty defendants.

Ohio law requires defendants in capital cases to have two lawyers, both certified in handling death penalty charges. Each side must also hire numerous investigators and expert witnesses, who could cover everything from blood patterns to ballistics in each killing.

While prosecutors might favor a single trial, it’s likely defense attorneys will push for separate trials for each defendant, Benza said, adding to the burden on the county. And many trials could swamp a small court like the one in Pike County, where the two common pleas judges already handle numerous other cases. The cost over the years, including appeals, could run into the millions, Benza said.

“Capital cases are already a tremendous use of resources, but now you’ve added four, with eight victims,” Benza said Thursday. “It’s not just times four, it’s an exponential increase in cost, in time, in personnel.”

State Supreme Court rules allow judges to ask that an extra judge be appointed temporarily in situations when courts are “overburdened,” though no request has been made yet in Pike County.

The victims of the 2016 killings were 40-year-old Christopher Rhoden Sr.; his ex-wife, 37-year-old Dana Rhoden; their three children, 20-year-old Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 16-year-old Christopher Jr., and 19-year-old Hanna; Clarence Rhoden’s fiancée, 20-year-old Hannah Gilley; Christopher Rhoden Sr.’s brother, 44-year-old Kenneth Rhoden; and a cousin, 38-year-old Gary Rhoden.

Welsh-Huggins reported from Columbus. Associated Press writer John Seewer in Toledo contributed.

County braces for long, pricey court case in family massacre

By ANGIE WANG and ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS

Associated Press

Thursday, November 15

CINCINNATI (AP) — Two women who are the mothers of two suspects in the massacre of a family, and the grandmothers of the other two, pleaded not guilty Thursday to misleading investigators of the crime, which went without any arrests for more than two years.

Authorities, meanwhile, braced for a long, complex and expensive court case that has already taken a financial toll on the small, rural Ohio county where eight members of the Rhoden family — seven adults and a teenage boy — were found shot in the head in April 2016.

Fredericka Wagner, 76, and Rita Newcomb, 65, face felony charges of obstructing justice and perjury for impeding an investigation; Newcomb is also charged with forgery. A county judge set bond at $100,000 for Wagner and $50,000 for Rita Newcomb. If released, both would be placed on house arrest and monitored by electronic anklets.

On Tuesday, police arrested a family of four in the slayings of eight members of the Rhoden family. George “Billy” Wagner III, 47; his wife, 48-year-old Angela Wagner; and their sons, 27-year-old George Wagner and 26-year-old Edward Wagner, face aggravated murder charges and other counts that carry the possibility of a death sentence if they’re convicted.

An attorney for the family has said they will be vindicated.

Fredericka Wagner is the mother of Billy Wagner. Rita Newcomb is the mother of Angela Wagner.

Newcomb’s attorney, Franklin Gerlach, portrayed his client as a grandmother living on Social Security. Wagner’s attorney, James Owen, said Thursday that his client “lived as close to the cross as anyone can” and taught Sunday school for decades.

Attorney General Mike DeWine has given scant detail about why the victims were killed, other than saying the custody of a young child played a role.

One of the suspects, Edward “Jake” Wagner, was the longtime former boyfriend of 19-year-old Hanna Rhoden, one of the victims, and shared custody of their daughter. Family members say the girl, now 4, is in state custody.

Pike County Commissioner Tony Montgomery told the Columbus Dispatch the Rhoden case has cost the county some $600,000 to date, including about $200,000 for a secure building that housed the trailers and camper where the killings occurred. Montgomery said almost $140,000 was reimbursed by the state.

A death penalty case this size could be “extraordinarily complicated and difficult,” said Michael Benza, a Case Western Reserve University law professor who has also represented death penalty defendants.

Ohio law requires defendants in capital cases to have two lawyers, both certified in handling death penalty charges. Each side must also hire numerous investigators and expert witnesses, who could cover everything from blood patterns to ballistics in each killing.

While prosecutors might favor a single trial, it’s likely defense attorneys will push for separate trials for each defendant, Benza said, adding to the burden on the county. And many trials could swamp a small court like the one in Pike County, where the two common pleas judges already handle numerous other cases. The cost over the years, including appeals, could run into the millions, Benza said.

“Capital cases are already a tremendous use of resources, but now you’ve added four, with eight victims,” Benza said Thursday. “It’s not just times four, it’s an exponential increase in cost, in time, in personnel.”

State Supreme Court rules allow judges to ask that an extra judge be appointed temporarily in situations when courts are “overburdened,” though no request has been made yet in Pike County.

The victims of the 2016 killings were 40-year-old Christopher Rhoden Sr.; his ex-wife, 37-year-old Dana Rhoden; their three children, 20-year-old Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 16-year-old Christopher Jr., and 19-year-old Hanna; Clarence Rhoden’s fiancée, 20-year-old Hannah Gilley; Christopher Rhoden Sr.’s brother, 44-year-old Kenneth Rhoden; and a cousin, 38-year-old Gary Rhoden.

Welsh-Huggins reported from Columbus.

Opinion: WHO’s Misguided Anti-Alcohol Crusade Would Create More Capones

By Ross Marchand

InsideSources.com

When asked to fund “global health” efforts, money should gravitate toward disease eradication, water provision/purification, and pollution abatement. But when donors (read: taxpayers) don’t get the choice on where their money is spent, bureaucrats at the helm of international organizations lose all sense of priority.

Case in point: the World Health Organization’s effort against conditions not caused by infectious agents, i.e. non-communicable diseases.

On its website, the WHO lists “tobacco use, physical inactivity, the harmful use of alcohol and unhealthy diets,” brought on “rapid unplanned urbanization, globalization of unhealthy lifestyles and population aging.”

The global bureaucracy’s attempt to branch out from traditional disease-fighting is ill-advised and reflects a deep misunderstanding of the industries and processes under scrutiny. Proposed taxation and regulation of “sin products” will only harm the global poor, while fueling black markets and other illegal activities.

To bureaucrats leading the charge against intolerable behaviors such as drinking and lounging around, absolutely no fun need be permitted. Remember, kids (sorry- I mean “adults”), alcohol has no discernible health benefits and can kill you through a wide array of scary diseases. There’s next-to-no discussion in the WHO’s recently released 2018 “Global status report on alcohol and health 2018” report on the benefits of moderate consumption, and the notion of “responsible drinking” is “strategically ambiguous and against the public health interest.”

One study about the benefits of light drinking finds its way in the report (on page 130), quickly dismissed by the authors as biased toward the alcohol industry. But wait! The authors claim that light drinking can have a beneficial effect on “diabetes mellitus, ischaemic heart disease, ischaemic stroke” in Tables 4.1-3. So might “responsible drinking” be plausible for sufferers of some of the world’s most common ailments?

Regardless of the WHO’s muddled health messaging, the solutions are obvious: “enact and enforce restrictions on the physical availability of retailed alcohol” and “establish minimum prices for alcohol where applicable” (on pg. 27). It shouldn’t be too surprising that strictly regulating or hiking the price of an in-demand product leads to illicit shenanigans.

Americans in particular have grown up learning and watching movies of mobster Al Capone build an empire off bootlegging alcohol. Writing about America’s failed 13-year experiment with Prohibition, The Guardian’s Dominic Sandbrook notes, “The law had only been in operation for an hour when the police recorded the first attempt to break it, with six armed men stealing some $100,000-worth of ‘medicinal’ whisky from a train in Chicago.”

Yet in the report, black markets barely even make an appearance. In the two pages (112 and 113) they devote to the subject (out of 137 total pages), the organization acknowledges that “unrecorded alcohol may contain higher ethanol content and potential contaminants” and “the low cost can promote heavy drinking” can complicate global mitigation efforts. But the WHO doesn’t make an attempt to tie in higher prices and restrictions with illicit use; all we need to address the issue are tax stamps and greater surveillance.

That’s not to say, of course, that the judgments of the WHO carry the same weight as the U.S. federal government. But the United Nations’ sub-agency carries an aura of scientific authority and offers various assistance for countries willing to play ball with them.

The proposed program budget for the 2018-2019 biennium includes more than $350 million for battling noncommunicable diseases. Much of this goes toward “regional offices to support countries in scaling up interventions to deal with noncommunicable diseases,” and the WHO notes that countries’ proposed noncommunicable disease budgets are increasing year-over-year.

America’s overall biennial tab to the WHO nears $120 million, but taxpayers are left in the dark as to how much of this goes toward promoting prohibition.

Given the United States’ considerable clout in funding both the WHO and the United Nations, America should use its dollars to push for reform. American leaders should insist that the WHO refrains from pushing failed substance control policies, and instead double down efforts of actual disease eradication. Even if the WHO can’t cut out their prohibition addiction to fund things like diarrhoeal diseases, they can at least clamp down on ludicrous travel expenditures. With some straightforward budgeting changes, the WHO can return to the arena of “public health” stronger and more capable than ever.

ABOUT THE WRITER

Ross Marchand is the director of policy for the Taxpayers Protection Alliance. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.

The Conversation

A vaccine that could block mosquitoes from transmitting malaria

November 15, 2018

Authors

Wei-Chiao Huang

Ph.D. Candidate in the Biomedical Engineering Department, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York

Jonathan Lovell

Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York

Disclosure statement

Wei-Chiao Huang receives funding from PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI) .

Jonathan Lovell’s lab has received funding from the NIH and PATH’s Malaria Vaccine Initiative for this project. He also has an interest in POP Biotechnologies.

Partners

University at Buffalo, The State University of New York provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.

Is it possible to eradicate malaria?

It is a question with which many researchers have grappled, and many ideas have been proposed. The reason malaria has garnered so much attention is that it is one of the deadliest diseases, infecting 200 million people and killing more than 500,000 annually, with infants in Africa suffering the majority of fatalities.

The disease is a huge burden for humanity, damaging economies and social development. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, malaria treatments cost Africa nearly US$12 billion per year. Reports have shown that nearly 1,700 cases are diagnosed annually in the United States, usually in people who have recently traveled to regions of Asia and Africa where the disease is endemic.

For some decades, researchers have being working on a novel idea called a “transmission-blocking vaccine.” This vaccine is different from traditional vaccines that protect the recipient from getting the disease. Here, the vaccine blocks the transmission of the parasite that causes malaria from an infected human host to mosquitoes.

When a human receives such a vaccine, specific antibodies are generated in the blood. When a mosquito bites and ingests the blood of an infected human, both the parasite and antibody are taken up into the mosquito’s stomach. Once inside the mosquito, the antibody attaches to the parasite and inhibits its development. This prevents the mosquito from transmitting the disease to another person.

The concept is bold but has not yet been tested in large-scale trials.

Liposomes: A vaccine carrier

A vaccine works by showing the body a piece of the disease-causing microbe. The part itself doesn’t cause disease but gives the body a preview of the invader so that it can prepare antibodies that will tag the microbe and label it for destruction.

To develop a potent vaccine that induces a strong antibody response, the choice of protein from the disease-causing organism is critical. Scientists home in on particular proteins that the microbes produce to spike the vaccine. For our work, we chose a well-studied protein called Pfs25, which is found on the surface of the malaria parasite.

The parasite displays this protein on its surface when it is developing in the midgut of the mosquito. Pfs25 as target protein for transmission-blocking vaccine has been clinically tested in Phase I trials; however, progress has been limited. That’s because, by itself, the Pfs25 protein triggers only weak production of specific antibodies.

In other approaches, researchers have taken steps to genetically engineer a modified and more potent Pfs25 for other clinical trials. In general, such approaches are promising, but there is some potential risk that the target protein does not exactly mimic the natural protein on the parasite.

We believe that a new type of vaccine that incorporates liposomes may be a promising candidate for a transmission-blocking vaccine adjuvant. An adjuvant is another vaccine component that potentiates the immune response. Liposomes are hollow spheres made from fat molecules.

The advantage of the liposomes, compared to just the Pfs25 protein alone, is that they can help deliver more parasite protein to immune cells. These cells uptake the liposomal vaccines and trigger the production of more antibodies which then target the parasite for destruction and block the disease.

Jonathan Lovell’s team has developed a liposome as a vaccine to fight against malaria. In 2015, Dr. Lovell’s team figured out how to anchor proteins to the liposome by attaching them to a string of amino acids called a histidine tag. The tag works like an anchor which attaches the protein to the liposome.

Adding a cobalt-containing molecule, with a structure similar to vitamin B12, made the liposome-protein structure stable.

Eliminating the spread of malaria

The Lovell lab developed a cobalt-laced liposome-based vaccine that displays the parasite proteins on its surface.

Making a liposome vaccine: The Pfs25 protein is tethered to a histidine tag (green) and mixed together with a cobalt-containing liposome. The two parts combine to make a vaccine that is injected into the mouse. The insert shows how the histidine tail interacts with the liposome to keep the proteins firmly attached. CC BY-SA

Making this vaccine is simple. Once we have the cobalt liposomes and the Pfs25-histidine molecules, we simply mix these parts together, and the structures form spontaneously. When this Pfs25 liposome is injected into mice, it triggers high quantities of antibodies.

The antibodies in the mice blocked development of parasites in the gut of the mosquito. So we expect that when an uninfected mosquito bites a person infected with the malaria parasite, the blood it sucks up will carry the parasite and the human antibodies that will prevent the parasite from multiplying in the insect’s gut.

When we tested this vaccine in mice, the animals continued to produce antibodies for more than 250 days. These antibodies produced throughout this period prevented the development of the malaria parasite throughout this period.

Moving forward

Another valuable feature of the cobalt liposome is that we can attach a variety of proteins from different stages of parasite development to create a particle that triggers the production of many types of antibodies – each targeting a unique part of the parasite. Our results showed that five distinct malaria proteins could be attached to the liposome surface.

The antibodies from mice immunized with liposomes carrying multiple proteins recognized many stages of parasite development. The results seem promising. In the future we plan to explore the safety of this vaccine and whether it will work for different species of malaria.

Our next step is to test our vaccine in other animals. Eventually the aim is to translate this technology to human clinical trials and assess whether the liposome technology and the transmission blocking vaccine strategy is an effective tool for preventing the spread of malaria.

This combination of undated photos provided by the Ohio Attorney General’s office show Rita Newcomb, left, and Fredericka Wagner. Authorities announced Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018, that the two women have been arrested for impeding the investigation into the slayings of eight members of one family in rural Ohio two years ago. (Ohio Attorney General’s office via AP)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/11/web1_121789233-188b3d8fbff248ed87227ed219f64bff.jpgThis combination of undated photos provided by the Ohio Attorney General’s office show Rita Newcomb, left, and Fredericka Wagner. Authorities announced Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018, that the two women have been arrested for impeding the investigation into the slayings of eight members of one family in rural Ohio two years ago. (Ohio Attorney General’s office via AP)

Fredericka Wagner, 76, of Lucasville, Ohio, covers her face as she walks into the Pike County Courthouse for her arraignment Thursday, November 15, 2018 in Piketon, Ohio. Wagner, and Rita Newcomb, 65, of South Webster, are accused of perjury and obstructing justice for allegedly misleading investigators; Newcomb also is charged with forging custody documents to cover up the crimes. The women are mothers of Angela Wagner and George "Billy" Wagner and grandmothers of the Wagners’ two sons, George Wagner IV and Edward "Jake" Wagner, who are facing murder charges. The killings took place in 2016. (Meg Vogel/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/11/web1_121789233-07749bdbfa6b477595284355573bf7b2.jpgFredericka Wagner, 76, of Lucasville, Ohio, covers her face as she walks into the Pike County Courthouse for her arraignment Thursday, November 15, 2018 in Piketon, Ohio. Wagner, and Rita Newcomb, 65, of South Webster, are accused of perjury and obstructing justice for allegedly misleading investigators; Newcomb also is charged with forging custody documents to cover up the crimes. The women are mothers of Angela Wagner and George "Billy" Wagner and grandmothers of the Wagners’ two sons, George Wagner IV and Edward "Jake" Wagner, who are facing murder charges. The killings took place in 2016. (Meg Vogel/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP)

Fredericka Wagner, 76, of Lucasville, Ohio,walks into the Pike County Courthouse for her arraignment Thursday, November 15, 2018 in Piketon, Ohio. Wagner, and Rita Newcomb, 65, of South Webster, are accused of perjury and obstructing justice for allegedly misleading investigators; Newcomb also is charged with forging custody documents to cover up the crimes. The women are mothers of Angela Wagner and George "Billy" Wagner and grandmothers of the Wagners’ two sons, George Wagner IV and Edward "Jake" Wagner, who are facing murder charges. The killings took place in 2016. (Meg Vogel/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/11/web1_121789233-470756c0eae8488cb607d466e9bf6e85.jpgFredericka Wagner, 76, of Lucasville, Ohio,walks into the Pike County Courthouse for her arraignment Thursday, November 15, 2018 in Piketon, Ohio. Wagner, and Rita Newcomb, 65, of South Webster, are accused of perjury and obstructing justice for allegedly misleading investigators; Newcomb also is charged with forging custody documents to cover up the crimes. The women are mothers of Angela Wagner and George "Billy" Wagner and grandmothers of the Wagners’ two sons, George Wagner IV and Edward "Jake" Wagner, who are facing murder charges. The killings took place in 2016. (Meg Vogel/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP)
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