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.”

NEWS HOW YOU WANT IT
» REAL-TIME ALERTS: Download our free apps for breaking news
» IN YOUR INBOX: Sign up for email newsletters on topics you love

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.

» HAVE A NEWS TIP? Contact our 24-hour line at 937-259-2237 or newsdesk@cmgohio.com

Fatal crash: Schools close after deaths of 2 Clark County HS students

Published: Sunday, August 20, 2017 @ 4:00 PM
Updated: Monday, August 21, 2017 @ 3:32 AM

Fatal crash: Schools close after deaths of 2 Clark County HS students

Two Clark County high school students were killed in a Sunday afternoon rollover crash in Greene County that led Greenon Local Schools and Global Impact STEM Academy to close.

LOCAL NEWS: U.S. 35 E crash kills one in Dayton

  • Crash kills David Waag, Connor Williams
  • Crash closes Greenon, Global Impact schools Monday
  • Driver, 18, and juvenile passenger injured

LOCAL NEWS: Man, 51, killed in Clark County crash

UPDATE @3:30 a.m. 8/21/17

The Ohio State Highway Patrol has released additional details in a Sunday evening double fatal crash.

A black 2005 Toyota Carolla, driven by Trey Blevins, 18, of Enon, went off the right side of Wilkerson Road between Fairborn and Yellow Springs.  Blevins over-corrected, went off the left side of the road and struck two trees, according to a release from OSHP.

Blevins was wearing a seat belt and was taken to Soin Medical Center with minor injuries. 

>> Local news from the Miami Valley

The right front passenger, Zach Knauer, 17, of Springfield, was also wearing a seat belt and was taken to Soin Medical Center for observation. 

David Waag, 17, of Beavercreek, and Connor Williams, 15, of Fairborn, were rear passengers. Waag and Williams were not wearing seat belts and were pronounced dead at the scene.

Alcohol and drugs do not appear to be factors, according to officials.

The crash remains under investigation.

UPDATE 8/20/17 

Community members came together Sunday night at the Greenon High School football field to grieve the loss of the two boys. Some brought candles, others illuminated cellphones to light the night in honor of David Waag and Connor Williams.

LOCAL NEWS: What you need to know about the 2017 solar eclipse

Waag, a senior at Greenon High School, and Williams, a student at Global Impact STEM Academy, were riding in the back seat of a car headed east just before 6 p.m. in the 500 block of Wilkerson Road in Bath Twp.

“It appears in our investigation that they drifted off the right side of the road, over-corrected, went off the left side, hit a tree and then overturned,” Sgt. Paul Lezotte of the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s Xenia Post.

The crash also injured the 18-year-old driver, a recent Greenon graduate, and another Greenon High student who was riding in the front seat. They were both taken to Soin Medical Center in Beavercreek with injuries that were not life-threatening. Troopers said none of the occupants were wearing seat belts.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation.

UPDATE @ 10:15 p.m.

Global Impact STEM Academy also has decided to close Monday in the wake of the death of one of its students.

The school sent out a “One Call” phone message and posted on social media to alert families.

UPDATE @ 8:45 p.m.

Greenon High School confirmed that two of its students were killed this afternoon in a two-vehicle crash.

The district identified the students as David Waag and Connor Williams.

The school will now be closed, according to a social media post, but counselors will be available from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Greenon.

“After careful consideration of our need to support our students during this difficult time and protect all students during tomorrow’s solar eclipse, we are cancelling school so that we can ensure the safety and emotional well-being of all students and staff.”

A candlelight vigil is underway at the high school football stadium.

Waag, a senior soccer player, last year was second-team All-Central Buckeye Conference Mad River Division as a junior. Williams, a sophomore, played football and attended Global Impact STEM Academy.

Greenon Athletic Director Adam Billet said he was not ready to comment, but said “they were great kids.”

A third Greenon student and a recent graduate also were injured in the crash.

The district had activities in place for the eclipse, but district spokeswoman said that with the deaths of two students in the tight-knit community it would be too much of a strain on the staff.

UPDATE @ 8:30 p.m.

Two boys from an area high school were killed this afternoon in a single-car rollover crash in Greene County.

The boys were in the back seat of a car that was traveling east in the 500 block of Wilkerson Road when it veered to the right, then went off the road to the left and struck a tree. the vehicle landed on its side, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol. None of the four male occupants were wearing seat belts but non were ejected in the crash, troopers said.

The driver, who is 18, went to Soin Medical Center in Beavercreek. A juvenile front-seat passenger lived nearby and went home before he later went to Soin for treatment, the patrol said.

The names of those in the crash have not been released, and the crash remains under investigation.

UPDATE @ 4:50 p.m.

Two passengers have died in an afternoon single-vehicle rollover crash in Bath Twp. near Fairborn, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

The driver was taken to Soin Medical Center in Beavercreek with injuries that were described as not life-threatening. Troopers are still looking for another passenger who fled the crash on foot. It is unknown whether that person is injured.

The crash site is not far from the Greene County border with Clark County.

UPDATE @ 4:15 p.m.

One person has died this afternoon in a rollover crash in Bath Twp. near Fairborn, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

CareFlight was canceled in the crash that injured up to three others.

FIRST REPORT

Crews were called to a rollover crash with serious injuries this afternoon near Fairborn.

The crash was reported shortly before 4 p.m. in the 500 block of Wilkerson Road. A CareFlight medical helicopter was placed on standby.

According to initial reports, there were four occupants in the vehicle with three possibly trapped and another person who may have fled the crash on foot.

We are on the way and will update this report.

Solar Eclipse 2017: Everything you need to know to view eclipse today

Published: Monday, August 21, 2017 @ 3:15 AM

A look at your Eclipse Day Forecast with Meteorologist Brett Collar

The 2017 Great American Eclipse is happening today.

The solar eclipse will begin shortly after 1 p.m. in the Miami Valley and will last nearly three hours. 

>> RELATED: What you need to know about the 2017 solar eclipse

Storm Center 7 Meteorologist McCall Vrydaghs will be doing a Facebook Live at 10 a.m. ahead of the eclipse on Dayton Daily News Facebook page. From 1 until 4 p.m., meteorologists will be live on the WHIO Facebook page from the Storm Center 7 studio and the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery.

WHIO Radio will have a special live show from 1 until 4 p.m. The special Eclipse show can be listened to live here.

>> WATCH: Here’s what the solar eclipse will look like in the Miami Valley

There are several events planned throughout the Miami Valley today, including over 10 watch parties.

>> RELATED: 11 solar eclipse watch parties in Dayton

Storm Center 7 Meteorologist Brett Collar said there is a slight chance for rain today with some cloud coverage, but there will still be the chance to see the eclipse this afternoon.

>> RELATED: Great American Eclipse: Will clouds or rain hamper eclipse viewing?

Some local schools are closing today out of concern for student safety, while other districts are making plans, as the eclipse will be happening around dismissal time.

>> RELATED: Some local schools close, others make plans for today’s solar eclipse

Since the Miami Valley won’t experience a total solar eclipse, there is a threat and concern that looking directly at the eclipse could cause retina damage to your eyes. If you don’t have a pair of certified eclipse glasses, there are other ways to view the eclipse, including a pinhole projector.

>> RELATED: How to watch the Great American Eclipse safely

>> RELATED: Solar Eclipse 2017: Read this before looking at the sun

Animals may be affected by the eclipse, and Director of the Montgomery County Animal Resource Center said it may not be a bad idea to bring pets inside.

Solar eclipse 2017: You can be a 'citizen scientist' during the Great American Eclipse

Published: Monday, August 21, 2017 @ 3:39 AM

WATCH: Rare Total Solar Eclipse Coming in August 2017

For the first time in 99 years, a total solar eclipse will cross North America on Monday.

>> Watch the news report here

The eclipse is expected to cross from Oregon, entering the U.S. at 10:15 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time, and leaving U.S. shores from South Carolina at 2:50 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, over the course of an hour and a half.

>> Solar eclipse 2017: What time does it start; how long does it last; glasses; how to view it

Becoming a citizen scientist through The Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment program begins with downloading NASA’s free GLOBE Observer Eclipse APP, which will fuel a nationwide science experiment.

>> On WSBTV.com: Complete coverage of the total solar eclipse

On Monday, citizen scientists will be able to measure how the eclipse changes atmospheric conditions near them, contributing to a database used by scientists and students worldwide.

The app explains how to make eclipse observations, but you will need to obtain a thermometer to accurately measure air temperature.

>> Solar eclipse 2017: Is it safe to take a selfie with the eclipse? How to do it the right way

Joining the experiment means you can help collect cloud and temperature data with your phone.

NASA said that observers in areas with a partial eclipse or those who are outside the path of totality are encouraged to participate alongside those within totality.

To learn more about how NASA is looking for the solar eclipses to help understand earth’s energy, click here

>> Read more trending news

Fourteen states will experience night-like darkness for approximately two minutes in the middle of the day, according to NASA.

"No matter where you are in North America, whether it's cloudy, clear, or rainy, NASA wants as many people as possible to help with this citizen scientist project," said Kristen Weaver, deputy coordinator for the project. "We want to inspire a million eclipse viewers to become eclipse scientists." 

Explaining Total Eclipses

Oxford man charged with officer impersonation

Published: Sunday, August 20, 2017 @ 1:06 PM
Updated: Sunday, August 20, 2017 @ 1:06 PM

Jacob Staton BUTLER COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE
Jacob Staton BUTLER COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE

An Oxford man is behind bars for allegedly impersonating a police officer Friday and attempting to talk with  a driver about at traffic violation.

MORE: Fairfield police need help identifying theft suspect

Jacob Staton, 21, of Oxford-Millville Avenue., is charged with using weapons while intoxicated, three counts of improperly handling firearms in a motor vehicle and one count of impersonation of peace officer. He is housed in the Butler County Jail pending arraignment Monday in Butler County Area Court.

MORE: Judge rules gag order to remain in Carlisle buried baby case

On Friday, Oxford police received a call of a man who walked up to a driver while he was in his vehicle, identified himself as a police officer, and addressed perceived traffic violations.

The man called Oxford police when the I.D. presented by the “officer” was clearly illegitimate, according to Oxford police.

Officers found the suspect, identified as Staton, nearby. Three handguns, as well as a bulletproof vest, flashlights, firearm magazines in the his vehicle. Staton was also intoxicated, according to police.

Oxford police warned via Facebook, “If you ever have doubt about the legitimacy of a police officer, look to see if the police cruiser has markings, look at the officer’s badge, and ask for the officer’s identification—OPD officers carry their identification card on them. If you still are unsure, you may call 911 to verify you are being stopped legitimately.”