Pike County murders: 5 unanswered questions 1 year later

Published: Thursday, April 20, 2017 @ 5:19 PM

Done camera views of the Pike County murder scenes one year later.

The one-year anniversary of the brutal slayings of eight family members in rural Pike County is April 22. 

Despite intense media scrutiny and around-the-clock work by investigators, there still remain more questions than answers. 

» RELATED: ‘There will always be a scar on this town’

Here are five mysteries that still remain one year later:

1. Who did this? 

At various times in the investigation there have been differing theories on who killed the Rhoden family. 

After a previous drug bust in the area was mentioned, statements by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine led to speculation that a Mexican drug cartel could have been involved. Commercial marijuana grow operations were found at two of the four murder scenes. 

But DeWine and Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader have since expressed the belief that the perpetrators – the consensus is that there’s more than one – were local to Pike County.

A reward poster for information about the Rhoden murders hangs in a tree outside the home of Leonard Manley, whose daughter Dana Rhoden, 37, was one of the eight victims in Pike County on April 22, 2016. The case remains unsolved. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

Some officials have speculated the suspects were even closer to the family.

Leonard Manley, whose daughter Dana Rhoden, 37, was one of the eight victims, has previously said whoever entered the property had to be familiar to the family’s dogs, or else they would have barked and attacked. 

The victims suffered a combined 32 gunshot wounds – one was shot nine times, two were shot five times each – and some showed soft tissue bruising, suggesting they may have been beaten, according to autopsy reports.

DeWine and Reader would not say at a recent press conference if they believe they’ve interviewed the perpetrator(s). 

MORE ON PIKE COUNTY 

» DeWine says case remains priority 

» Watch: A year in Pike County, from murders to community grief to rebuilding 

» Pike County shooting victims: A closer look at the 8 who died

2. Is the investigation progressing?

DeWine and Reader gave a press conference April 13 and stressed that the case is still a top priority. 

But after more than 800 tips, 400 interviews, 38 search warrants and a dozen investigators constantly on the ground in Piketon, there have been no arrests. 

DeWine and Reader declined to discuss possible motives, a time-frame for the investigation or scenarios that have been ruled out. 

They insist a lack of disclosure about new details will protect the integrity of the investigation — the largest in the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation history. They also insist the case is not cold, and that there exists — somewhere in the county, or elsewhere — someone with answers.

“We will find you,” Reader said to the killer or killers. “We will arrest you, and you will be prosecuted.”

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3. Will anyone talk?

The sheriff’s office has hung posters all in various locations around Piketon, advertising a $10,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest in the case. 

Crime Stoppers is accepting donations to increase that amount. 

But Reader admitted at the recent press conference that fear of reprisal is still a real factor in this case. 

He said he’s sure some of the people they’ve interviewed have lied to them, whether out of fear of getting in trouble for criminal activity, or out of fear that they could be next. 

A billboard seeking information about the Rhoden family murders is seen along Ohio 23 near Waverly. Eight members of the Rhoden family were killed in rural Pike County in the early morning hours of April 22, 2016. One year later, the murder case remains unsolved. TY GREENLEES / STAFF(Staff Writer)

The killings were committed “execution-style,” and whoever did it is still out there. In the immediate aftermath of the crimes, Reader told other members of the Rhoden family to arm themselves for protection. 

DeWine said solving the murders is the top priority, and detectives need information.

“This is a homicide investigation,” he said. “It’s not that we don’t care what you’ve done with drugs – we care, but our focus is on the homicide, and so people should not be concerned about coming forward and disclosing information that may be helpful in the investigation.”

4. What was the motive?

Was the family killed by rival drug dealers or were the murders in connection to other criminal activity? There was evidence they were raising roosters for cock fighting, DeWine has said.

This criminal activity, Reader said, was “minute” compared to their slaughter.

“Regardless of their lifestyle, they were human beings,” he said. 

Was the murder more personal? In the immediate aftermath, several individuals who had expressed prior disputes with Rhoden family members on social media were questioned, but quickly let go. 

There have been more rumors than concrete theories when it comes to motive. 

MORE ON PIKE COUNTY
» Timeline: The shocking events of the Pike County shooting
» Photos: Scenes from Pike County six months after a massacre
» DeWine on Pike Co. shootings: Someone involved ‘knew the territory’
» Ohio covers funeral costs for Pike County murder victims

5. Can the community heal?

Things are quieter now in the rural community, but the specter of these slayings, unsolved, still hangs over the people of Pike County. A billboard with the victim’s faces literally hovers over the sheriff’s office. 

“I see the look of disappointment when I speak with the family, and I look into their eyes and the grieving they still have,” Reader said last week. He said these murders were the worst thing he’s seen in all his years in law enforcement. 

“There will always be a scar on this town,” said Morty Throckmorton, who manages the Smart Mart store in Piketon.

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Ohio thief caught after leaving wallet at scene of crime

Published: Sunday, October 22, 2017 @ 3:53 AM

Wallet.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Wallet.(Joe Raedle/Getty Images)


A thief in Ohio unwittingly turned himself in after leaving his wallet behind after leaving a Dayton store.

>> Read more trending news

Police said they were dispatched to Dollar General in Dayton around 8 a.m. Saturday, and found a wallet left behind by one of the suspects. Police found several items with the suspect’s name on them, including a photo ID. 

The second suspect was identified as a heavyset man between 30 and 40, wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt. The suspect ran away on foot south through the nearby alley, appearing to have several items hidden under his sweatshirt. 

According to reports, police found hangers with five children’s outfits near the wallet, as well as three packs of Ivory soap and a Halloween mask.

5 former presidents appear at hurricane relief concert

Published: Sunday, October 22, 2017 @ 2:05 AM

From left, former Presidents George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama address the audience during the
From left, former Presidents George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama address the audience during the "Deep From The Heart: One America Appeal Concert" at Texas A&M University on Saturday.(Gary Miller/Getty Images)

All five living former Presidents appeared together for the first time since 2013 on Saturday, as they appeared at a benefit concert in Texas to raise money for hurricane relief efforts, CNN reported.

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Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama attended “Deep From the Heart: The One America Appeal” on the campus of Texas A&M University. President Donald Trump appeared in a taped video message to the concertgoers, CNN reported.

The concert featured rock and country musicians such as Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keen, Sam Moore and Yolanda Adams. Country music singer Lee Greenwood was emcee for the event.

Lady Gaga made an unbilled appearance and tweeted, "Nothing more beautiful than everyone putting their differences aside to help humanity in the face of catastrophe. #OneAmericaAppeal"

As of Saturday night, the "One Heart" effort had raised $31 million in tax-deductible, private funds from more than 80,000 donors since Sept. 7, said Jim McGrath, spokesman for George H.W. Bush. Funds collected through concert ticket sales will be distributed through various organizations in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

Four of the five former presidents spoke at the concert, appealing for national unity to help those affected by the hurricanes. The elder Bush, sitting in his wheelchair, did not speak but smiled and waved to the crowd.

Carter told the crowd that Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit organization he has worked with for 36 years, has agreed to build 6,000 homes in devastated areas. The group has raised $20 million of a needed $100 million, he said.

Clinton said that the country “has been volunteering since before the Constitution, when Benjamin Franklin organized the first volunteer fire department in Philadelphia.”

“The heart of America, without regard to race or religion or political party, is greater than our problems,” Clinton said.

“What we’ve also seen was the spirit of America at its best,” Obama said. “When ordinary people step up and do extraordinary things.”

“I want to thank all the volunteers, but I am here for another reason. I speak for the folks right here when I say we really admire and love George H.W. Bush,” the younger Bush said.

The last time the five men appeared together was in 2013, when Obama was still in office, at the dedication of George W. Bush's presidential library in Dallas.

Trump thanked the former presidents in his taped message.

“To Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Melania and I want to express our deep gratitude for your tremendous assistance," Trump said. "This wonderful effort reminds us that we truly are one nation under God, all unified by our values and our devotion to one another.”

Air Force may recall up to 1,000 retired pilots

Published: Sunday, October 22, 2017 @ 12:24 AM

The U.S. Air Force may call up to 1,000 retired pilots back to active duty.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
The U.S. Air Force may call up to 1,000 retired pilots back to active duty.(Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The U.S. Air Force may recall as many as 1,000 retired military pilots to active duty because of an executive order signed Friday by President Donald Trump,  ABC News reported.

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By law, only 25 retired pilots can be recalled through voluntary programs to serve in any one branch of military service, but Trump’s executive order removes that limit, ABC News reported. The order expands the national state of emergency declared in 2001 by President George W. Bush in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as part of an effort “to mitigate the Air Force’s acute shortage of pilots,” said Navy Commander Gary Ross, a Pentagon spokesman.

Secretary of Air Force Heather Wilson said the service was short by 1,555 pilots -- including 1,211 fighter pilots -- at the end of the 2016 fiscal year.

"We anticipate that the Secretary of Defense will delegate the authority to the Secretary of the Air Force to recall up to 1,000 retired pilots for up to three years," Ross said in a statement Friday. "The pilot supply shortage is a national level challenge that could have adverse effects on all aspects of both the government and commercial aviation sectors for years to come."

Father’s dying wish fulfilled as his 7 daughters stage wedding ceremony

Published: Saturday, October 21, 2017 @ 9:09 AM

Wedding dresses.
Miquel Benitez/WireImage
Wedding dresses.(Miquel Benitez/WireImage)

Seven brides for one dying father.

An Ohio man was granted his final wish shortly before he died from brain cancer, as he got to give away his seven daughters in a bridal ceremony.

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William L. “Willie” Shelton died on Oct. 16 at the age of 44. Only one of his daughters is married, but all seven of them decided to create a ceremony so the former U.S. Army sergeant could experience the thrill of seeing all of them in wedding dresses, WJW reported.

“The one constant was always, ‘I want to see my girls grow up, and I want to walk them down the aisle,’” Shelton’s wife, Cheryl Shelton, told WJW.

Willie Shelton’s hospice center, along with a photographer and hair stylist, helped put the daughters’ plan into action within a few days.

"We had this idea we put together in three days,” Cheryl Shelton told WJW. “We got all the wedding gowns for the girls and hospice helped us out a great deal with some of the planning.”


The father was told that he would be giving away his daughter, Emily Flinn, who was renewing her vows with her husband, Tyler Flinn.

“We got married at a courthouse, so there wasn't the formality to it where he could actually give me away,” Emily Flinn said.

“He had no clue that this was going on and everybody got dressed, so I said, ‘She is going to have all the girls be the bridesmaids and everything for her.’ Little did he know that they were all going to be brides,” Cheryl Shelton told WJW.

Three days later, with Willie Shelton wearing his dress uniform in a backyard ceremony, each of his daughters came out of the house, one at a time, all in wedding gowns.

“He looked a little confused, and then it was just great to see everybody,” Flinn told WJW.

“This was very touching for him, and it was a dream that we could fulfill to the best or the closest we could possibly do,” Cheryl Shelton said.

Willie Shelton was helped out of his wheelchair and stood with his daughters during the ceremony, WJW reported.

“I always assumed that my dad would be there to walk me down the aisle, and when the possibility was there that he wasn't going to be able to -- this was everything,” Lindsey Shelton told WJW

Less than two weeks after the ceremony, Willie Shelton passed away -- but his daughters will carry his memory with them.

All seven daughters will receive a locket in which they will have a photo of their father with them in a wedding dress.

The words, "A father's love never ends," will be engraved on the back.