Pike County murders: 5 unanswered questions 1 year later

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

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.

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. 

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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Major League Baseball umpire stops woman from jumping off bridge before Pirates game

Published: Wednesday, June 28, 2017 @ 11:48 PM

(WPXI.com)

A Major League Baseball umpire, Jon Tumpane, stopped a woman from jumping off the Roberto Clemente Bridge before Wednesday night's Pittsburgh Pirates game at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

"Just hanging on to her and at times when she wanted to go the other way, I was like, 'not on my watch,'" Tumpane said in a press conference Wednesday night. 

>> Read more trending news 

"I was able to mouth to one of the gentlemen in back, and said, 'Call 911, call 911,' and they did," he said.

Tumpane was walking across the bridge on the way from his hotel to the park, where he was scheduled to work behind the plate. 

He came across a woman in distress, apparently preparing to jump off the bridge.

He said he locked his arms in hers and offered to buy her lunch, desperately trying to coax her back to safety. 

"At that point she said, 'Just let me go, it'll be better off that way.' And I said, 'No, let me buy you lunch, we'll talk this over, it'll all work out,'" Tumpane said.

During the press conference, he said between innings he would look at the Roberto Clemente Bridge over the center field wall.

"This was an unbelievable day and I'm glad to say that she can have another day with us," Tumpane said. "This isn't about me. I appreciate the opportunity but honestly, this is for her and people that care about her. I'm just glad it's a positive story and not a sad story."

Pregnant woman bitten by brown recluse spider while sleeping

Published: Wednesday, June 28, 2017 @ 11:01 PM

A pregnant woman named Kendall Butler (pictured) has a large area of dead skin from a brown recluse spider bite.

A pregnant woman is still recovering from a brown recluse spider bite that happened over a month ago. 

Kendall Butler was woken by the bite. She killed the spider and took it to the hospital with her immediately.

>> Read more trending news

Doctors were able to stop the infection and keep her unborn child safe by using antibiotics. However, she does have a large area of skin on her stomach that died because of the spider’s venom.

Doctors said they don’t want to fully treat the wound yet because of the baby. Originally, the plan was to evacuate the wound and then look into skin grafts once the child is born.

Now, Butler’s doctors say the wound needs to be evacuated sooner. They will wait until July 10 when the baby is seven weeks from the due date. Experts believe she’ll be strong enough by then to be born early, just in case anything happens during the procedure.

A Green Country entomologist said that Oklahoma’s mild winter caused more dangerous insects to come out early.

Experts say people should take precautions against insects while outside, but that there isn’t much to be done indoors but have homes sprayed.

The Centers for Disease Control says that even though people fear bug spray with DEET is bad for pregnant women, it’s actually recommended with the same precautions as those who are not pregnant or lactating.

Kettering home invasion victims indicted for marijuana cultivation

Published: Wednesday, June 28, 2017 @ 10:28 PM

Six months after a Kettering family suffered a home invasion, the victims are charged with drug crimes that police say led to the armed intrusion.

Bobby R. Napier, 36, and Anne K. Goodrich, 44, were indicted for felony illegal cultivation of marijuana and two counts of misdemeanor endangering children, according to a Montgomery County grand jury report released Monday.

They are both ordered to appear July 11 for arraignment in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court.

RELATED: Surveillance photo released in Kettering home invasion

Kettering police were called to the family’s home around 12:20 a.m. Dec. 13, 2016, after the victims told police two armed, masked men forced their way inside. The two adults quickly became the focus of a police narcotics investigation after responding officers reported they found a marijuana grow operation inside the house, Kettering police officer John Jung said in December. There also were two children, ages 16 and 2, in the house. The drugs were the suspected reason for the targeted home invasion, Jung said.

It is not clear whether the intruders were identified or arrested.

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VP Mike Pence in Cleveland promises replacement of ‘Obamacare’

Published: Wednesday, June 28, 2017 @ 5:34 PM

Vice President Mike Pence speaks on March 2, 2017, in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)
Olivier Douliery/TNS

Vice President Mike Pence said the administration is still working to pull Ohio Senator Rob Portman from “no” to “yes” on President Trump’s healthcare overhaul, which failed to receive a vote after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pulled it Tuesday for lack of Republican support.

Pence was visiting Cleveland and taking a tour of an area manufacturing plant before meeting with small business owners to discuss health care. 

Two Ohio gubernatorial candidates were in attendance - current Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and Congressman Jim Renacci, who flew to Cleveland with Pence in Air Force Two.

According to Cleveland.com reporter Seth Richardson on Twitter, Pence said the party was, “close to achieving our signature goal of this administration of the repeal and replacement of Obamacare. I promise you we will get this thing done.”

Pence said flexibility in Medicaid was part of the president’s reform plans and said, “one size fits all is literally collapsing in terms of Medicaid.”

On stage, the Vice President said Trump was the best friend American manufacturing has ever had, claiming Trump has cut more “red tape” than “any president in American history” while taking on the Paris Climate Accord, saying the administration represents “Paris not Pittsburgh, and Cleveland not Copehagen.” 

Pence remarked on the president’s tax and military plans before stepping off stage. He promised tax cuts once the Trump health care overhaul is finished, and promised the biggest military spending increase “since the days of Reagan.”