PIKE COUNTY SHERIFF: ‘We are getting closer. We will find you.’

Published: Friday, April 21, 2017 @ 5:43 AM

PIKE COUNTY — One year after eight members of the Rhoden family were murdered in their beds as they slept, the Ohio Attorney General and local law enforcement officers continue to search for answers. 

Pike County residents wonder if the killers will be caught.

"Yes I do think it is going to be a lot harder to find them,” said Annie Wilburn, a Piketon resident. “I really don't know if they're going to find them at all."

RELATED: In depth Pike County murders coverage

Stephanie Stanley, a reporter with The Pike County News Watchman newspaper, has tracked this case from the beginning and says it's been tough to deal with.

"People were slain in their beds with babies beside them,” Stanley said. “And it was crushing."

The key to this case may lie with what investigators found here when they responded after the murders – two commercial-sized marijuana grow operations. 

Ohio attorney general Mike DeWine says some people in Piketon are reluctant to talk out of fear of retaliation. Others may be purposely withholding information.

"It's going to be better for them if they come forward if they do it on their own accord than if we have to drag them in,” DeWine said. 

RELATED: DeWine on Pike Co. shootings: Someone involved ‘knew the territory’

The Rhodens lived at multiple locations along Union Hill Road in Pike County. 

DeWine says given the remoteness of the Rhoden family homes, the killers must have known the area well. 

During a news conference in April, DeWine and the county sheriff unveiled a poster of the victims and information about a $10,000 reward for information. 

Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader said he has a message for the killers:

"You came in like thieves in the night and took eight lives...some being children,” Reader said. “The most horrific way I have seen in my 20 plus years. We are getting closer. We will find you. The family and the victims will have justice one day."

RELATED: Final autopsy reports out in Pike County killings

Law enforcement officers have conducted nearly 500 interviews and received almost 900 tips making this the biggest case the Bureau of Investigation has ever handled, according to the attorney general. 

A reporter the local newspaper told us there have been many theories about who could have done it. Everything from Mexican drug cartels to rival factions within the victim's family.

RELATED: 4 possible motives in Pike County Ohio murders

"People keep swinging back to was it someone within the family?” Stanley said. “We hear that quite a bit.”

 

 

Oxford court may move or be shut down

Published: Saturday, May 27, 2017 @ 7:00 AM

Area I Court in Oxford would be moved to Hamilton or abolished under a proposal by county prosecutor Michael Gmoser (pictured). GREG LYNCH/STAFF

Area I Court in Oxford would be moved to Hamilton or abolished under a proposal by Buter County prosecutor Michael Gmoser, which would force the city into a difficult decision about how and where to have cases tried.

That issue still remains in the future, but a more immediate one also has been raised by Gmoser, who informed city officials his staff would no longer prosecute cases cited under city ordinance beginning in July.

City Manager Doug Elliott told City Council about the prosecutor’s letter at the May 2 meeting and then spoke again on the topic at the May 16 meeting.

“As of July 1, he said his staff would no longer prosecute (offenses charged under) our ordinances. He feels he has no obligation to prosecute them,” Elliott said. “We could cite under state code, not city ordinance but we would lose money. We get half now and it would cost about $40,000 to $50,000 per year. We’re going to need to work this out.”

Gmoser told this news outlet, through research of the current area court system his staff determined “not only do I not have the obligation, we do not have the jurisdiction to prosecute cases under city ordinances.”

He said a consolidation of the area court system would be a cost savings that he has been exploring for a couple years. Gmoser added Oxford is unique because of its collage population that may warrant a municipal or even a mayors court to hear city cases.

In his follow-up report May 16, the city manager told Council he was recommending the city cite offenses under state code where possible which would allow the county prosecutor’s staff to handle Oxford cases but the bigger issue remains of Gmoser’s plan to go to a municipal court scenario and do away with the part-time area courts.

Gmoser’s April 25 letter cited an Ohio Revised Code provision he says prohibits him from prosecuting municipal ordinance cases in area court.

“If Oxford had a municipal court, I could do so by contract. Because Oxford has no municipal court, a remedy by a contract is not available under this statute,” Gmoser wrote to Elliott, saying it would take effect in July. “If this does go into effect, violations will have to be charged under the state code where I do have jurisdiction and the requirement to prosecute and the consequential financial loss to the city.”

The letter outlines a proposal to abolish all three area courts in the county and to establish two municipal courts, one on the east side of the county and the other on the west side of Hamilton, to which Oxford cases could be sent. The city would also have the option — and expense — of establishing its own municipal court.

Elliott told Council merging into that Hamilton court would still have costs and also would require police officers to go there to testify.

Forming a court in Oxford could be an expensive proposition, too, as it likely would require a new location rather than using the Courthouse building on West High Street. Ohio Supreme Court requirements for court security likely would demand that.

Gmoser’s letter also noted the city could return to a mayor’s court as it had for many years before an agreement to have Area I Court hear city cases.

“(W)ith the move to Hamilton, you may wish to consider establishing a mayor’s court to handle all of your ordinance violations leaving the Area court to handle felony cases, domestic violence cases and second-offense OVI cases which cannot be heard in a mayor’s court. A magistrate, clerk staff and your law director acting as prosecutor will be necessary for the operation of that court, but you will have the facility you now rent to the county,” the letter said. “You may also adopt a diversion program. Presently, my diversion program for the Area I Court receives program fees in excess of $80,000 per year with very little administrative expense.”

Gmoser also noted Miami University is a “renewable resource” for that diversion program and that money would help defray the expense of a mayor’s court or municipal court and that the Ohio Supreme Court will share the cost of a part- or full-time municipal court judge, but not a mayor’s court.

Mayor Kate Rousmaniere responded to Elliott’s May 2 comments saying the city first needed to deal with the July 1 deadline for handling prosecution of cases cited under city ordinance and then face the greater question.

“There are reasons to have a municipal court,” she said. “We need to look at that.”

On May 16, the city manager said he would like to see the county’s proposal for changes to the court system and decide from there. Gmoser’s suggestion of merging the area courts was originally made two years ago, Elliott explained but came up again in the April 25 letter he received from the prosecutor.

“(The proposal for a municipal court) is based on savings to the county, but at the expense of the City of Oxford,” Elliott told Council May 16.

Half-hour long pursuit down Ohio 235 ends with pickup in ditch

Published: Sunday, May 28, 2017 @ 12:28 AM

Multiple state troopers have ended a nearly half-hour long pursuit on Ohio 235 in Clark County, according to dispatchers. 

Dispatchers said troopers were pursuing a pickup truck out of Greene County in the chase that ended just before midnight.

Little is known about what began the pursuit on Ohio 4 around 11:26 p.m., or the man troopers were chasing. 

Dispatchers said the pursuit ended when the man crashed into a ditch on Ohio 235 just inside Clark County.

We are working to learn more in this developing story.

Police: 'Movie money' being used to defraud Florida retailers

Published: Saturday, May 27, 2017 @ 1:16 PM

The “money” looks real and feels real, but to the right of Benjamin Franklin’s head, the $100 bill reads, “For motion picture use only.”

Despite the warning, a manager at Forever 21 at the Treasure Coast Square in Jensen Beach was fooled Wednesday by the $100 bill someone used to pay for $93.81 worth of women’s clothing and accessories, the Martin County Sheriff’s Office said. It was the fifth recent case of the “movie money” being used at county retailers.

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See who’s been booked into the Palm Beach County Jail

Deputies arrested the teenager suspected in the Forever 21 fraud case when managers at another chain store contacted authorities and said he tried to purchase $400 worth of merchandise with the fake bills.

A manager at the Forever 21 store told the Post on Friday that another manager took the counterfeit money. She said the scammers, a young male and  young female who looked to be about 16 or 17 years old, were purchasing items such as a bodysuit, fake eyelashes and an eyelash curler.

She said the bill appeared to be real, aside from the label saying it was for movies only, and she hadn’t seen the “movie money” used previously in the store.

The store has a machine to check for counterfeit money, but it wasn’t working at the time of that purchase, the manager said.

Deputies withheld the name of the teen apprehended in the fraud cases at the mall.

Other cases include using fake $20 bills as well as well as $100s. 

The Sheriff’s Office encouraged retailers in the area to make their employees aware of the fake bills being circulated.

Man shot in hand, leg during large fight in Springfield

Published: Saturday, May 27, 2017 @ 10:49 PM

A Springfield man was shot in the hand and leg tonight in the 1800 block of Rutland Avenue in Springfield.

“It originally came in as a large fight,” Sgt. Jeff Williams of the Springfield Police Division said.

Later, the report was updated around 8:30 p.m. that someone had been shot.

The gunshot victim was taken to Springfield Regional Medical Center. His name and age were not released, but his injuries are not life-threatening, Williams said.

It’s not clear whether he was shot twice, or one bullet inflicted both wounds.

Police have identified a suspect, but he is not in custody. Formal charges are expected to be filed, the sergeant said.