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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New Boonshoft Museum exhibit gives visitors real-time view of global weather patterns

Published: Monday, May 22, 2017 @ 6:45 PM

Every day, our Storm Center 7 team shows you the weather around the Miami Valley and beyond. We show you where there are clouds, when the rain will hit and how to prepare for severe weather.

Now, our Storm Center 7 team would like to invite you to see our planet in a whole new way through a partnership with the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Science on a Sphere is designed to show museum goers planet Earth as they’ve never seen it before.

"Science on a sphere was originally created by NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as a way to show everything that is happening on coastlines, things happening in the atmosphere, anything dealing with the weather, just to promote education to the public about all of that,” Mackenzie English, Laboratory Programs Coordinator at Boonshoft Museum of Discovery said.

"This is a giant, 68-inch diameter, carbon-fiber globe - suspended in mid-air … and it gives visitors an amazing perspective of our planet like you've never seen it before".

From the control console, visitors can get an astonishing array of visualizations of Earth's atmosphere, oceans, and land. 

When selecting a feature such as "water vapor", the user will get real weather imagery projected onto the sphere with a detailed explanation of what you are seeing from one of our Storm Center 7 meteorologists.

Visitors can look at clouds, air and water temperatures, ocean currents and even watch commercial air traffic across the planet.

You can check out the Science on a Sphere at Boonshoft with our Storm Center 7 meteorologists Monday through Saturday from 9am to 5pm and Sunday noon to 5pm.

For updates and more news click here to download our free apps.

Congressman Mike Turner target of national Democratic group

Published: Monday, May 22, 2017 @ 3:38 PM
Updated: Monday, May 22, 2017 @ 6:31 PM

Congressman Michael Turner (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

For the first time in more than a dozen years, the congressional seat now held by U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, is being targeted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which has named 79 seats of more than 130 it plans to focus on in 2018.

Turner was one of 20 new targets the DCCC announced Monday. He is one of only two that voted against the recent Republican legislation to replace Obamacare.

Mark Owens, chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Party says the DCCC sees the 10th District as winnable for a Democrat in part because of the district makeup and also because of the current political climate.

RELATED: Look back at Turner’ 2016 race

The district includes all of Montgomery, Greene and part of Fayette County.

Turner’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

“I think it’s because even though it is a gerrymandered district it is less gerrymandered than some others around the country,” Owens said.

Owens said two potential candidates are already interested in challenging Turner in 2018 but he would not name them as he did not have their permission to do so.

RELATED: With protesters outside Republicans at local GOP dinner stress unity

“One is a West Point grad, Afghan/Iraq vet” and the other is a a local businesswoman, Owens said. He said one of the two “has some wealth and is going to put some money into” the race, which Owens expects will require $1 million to $1.5 million to be competitive.

Blaine Kelly, spokesman for the Ohio Republican Party, said Turner won by a large margin in the Nov. 2016 over teacher Robert Klepinger, a Democrat, and Huber Heights Mayor Thomas McMasters, an independent.

“The only explanation for the Democrats’ decision to target Congressman Turner, or any Republican seats in Ohio, is that they are gluttons for punishment. Congressman Turner’s constituents gave him a giant stamp of approval last November by reelecting him with sixty-four percent of the vote,” Kelly said. “Democrats can manufacture outrage when Republicans keep campaign promises, but they can’t fake votes.”

Turner’s seat is one of four in Ohio the DCCC believes can be taken from Republican incumbents in 2018. The others are U.S. Reps. Steve Chabot, R-Cincinnati, Bob Gibbs, R-Avon, and Dave Joyce, R-Russell Twp. Nearly all the targeted seats are held by the GOP and the others are open.

RELATED: Groups hold town hall without Rep. Mike Turner

Owens said a Democratic candidate can get logistical and fund-raising support from the DCCC in a targeted race. He thinks the last time Turner’s district was targeted was the year he won it in a 2002 battle against Democrat Rick Carne to replace longtime U.S. Rep. Tony Hall, D-Dayton.

“We’re incredibly excited that our national partners are expanding the map and targeting races like Ohio’s 10th Congressional District,” said Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper.

The DCCC raised more than $9 million in April, beating previous records for the month, according to The Hill. However that’s about $1 million less than what was raised last month by Republicans.

Ex-WSU administrator testifies he did not break any laws at the school

Published: Monday, May 22, 2017 @ 12:19 PM
Updated: Monday, May 22, 2017 @ 2:10 PM

A Wright State University administrator fired amid an ongoing criminal probe of WSU’s use of a work visa program said in court today he had broken no laws, and the university’s former president admitted he personally had no evidence to the contrary.

The hearing was in the civil lawsuit brought by Ryan Fendley alleging Wright State failed to provide him a required nine months of notice before terminating him in 2015 shortly after the federal investigation became public.

The suit seeks nine months of pay and benefits totaling more than $150,000.

RELATED: WSU leaders: Fire long-suspended workers

“Did you ever violate any laws in connection with your employment with Wright State?” Fendley’s attorney Theodore Copetas asked him under oath.

“No,” Fendley responded, answering the same to whether he ever violated any rules or regulations.

Copetas argued that Wright State had every right to terminate Fendley, but could only deprive him of the required notice if they could demonstrate “just cause.”

WSU attorneys argued former President David Hopkins, who was sitting at the defense table, was lead to believe Fendley was about to be indicted for allegedly violating federal immigration law.

The federal investigation into WSU’s use of the H-1B visa program became public in mid-2015 when Fendley was suspended along with the provost, a researcher and the school’s chief general counsel.

RELATED: Cost of Wright State probe tops $2 million

Fendley was the only one fired. The attorney retired with a separation agreement. The provost and researcher lost their administrative jobs but remain on paid leave as faculty more than two years later.

Hopkins testified that he took action after he and a university attorney met with U.S. attorneys at their office in Dayton for an hour.

“My impression was that three individuals employed by Wright State had conspired to commit visa fraud and my decision at that point, I thought, was for the best interest of the university to remove all three from their administrative positions,” he said.

Hopkins was prevented from testifying about exactly what U.S. attorneys told him that led him to that decision; the evidence was rejected by magistration Holly Shaver as second-hand “hearsay.”

Hopkins said Wright State didn’t conduct its own investigation of the allegations because they didn’t want to get in the way of the feds. For that reason, they had no documented evidence he had done anything wrong.

But WSU attorney Lee Ann Rabe said Fendley was well aware he was the target of a federal probe when he was fired.

“It strains credibility for Mr. Fendley to walk in here today and claim he has no idea why he was terminated by the university,” she said.

Fendley said the damages he was seeking would never replace all he lost when the university fired him.

“My reputation is in tatters in the community,” he said, his voice cracking. “And it’s been almost two years now and I haven’t been able to get a job.”

WRIGHT STATE COVERAGE:

WSU president reveals federal probe details in deposition

Wright State hits its ‘low point’ with announcement of 71 layoffs

A ranking of WSU departments most impacted by proposed budget cuts

New Wright State president says she’ll ‘right the ship very quickly’

Indianapolis 500 drivers robbed at Taco Bell

Published: Monday, May 22, 2017 @ 5:15 PM

Indianapolis 500 drivers Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti were robbed at gunpoint while in a Taco Bell Drive Thru late Monday night, according to WTTV the CBS affiliate in Indianapolis. Also in the car was Dixon’s wife and all three were unharmed. 

Authorities report the incident occurred just before 10 p.m. and that two younger men approached Dixon’s car demanding his wallet and phone. Two boys ages 15 and 14 were arrested a short time later. 

The Marion County Prosecutor’s Office is currently reviewing charges in this case. 

The 2017 Indianapolis 500 (the 101st Indianapolis 500) is scheduled for this Sunday, May 28, 2017, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.