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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Firefighters extinguish flames at Greene County home

Published: Sunday, April 23, 2017 @ 1:12 AM

UPDATE @ 2:08 a.m.

Firefighters have extinguished the fire at a Greene County home and remain on scene to finish clean up, according to dispatchers. 

Dispatchers said it is unknown if anyone was at the house at the time of the fire or if anyone was injured as a result. 

We are working to learn more information from fire officials.

EARLIER REPORT

The roof of a Greene County house has reportedly collapsed as fire crews battle a house fire Sunday morning. 

Crews were dispatched to the 3800 block of Wilberforce-Clifton Road outside of Clifton around 12:55 a.m. 

The fire was originally reported in a garage shortly before flames were reported coming from the roof of a house. 

Initial reports indicate the roof of the house has collapsed and crews ancountered heavy flames upon arrival. 

We will continue to follow this developing story.

10-year-old boy with autism arrested at school

Published: Sunday, April 23, 2017 @ 1:54 AM

Child arrested (stock photo)
jabejon/Getty Images

Luanne Haygood, the mother of a 10-year-old boy with autism, is angry that her son was arrested earlier this month at his Florida school for allegedly punching and kicking his teacher six months ago. Okeechobee County school resource officers put the child in handcuffs at Okeechobee Achievement Academy, but Haygood said the school district isn’t properly equipped to deal with autistic children.

“He has autism. He doesn’t know what’s going on,” she can be heard saying in the video that she recorded of her son’s arrest. “He’s scared to death. He’s 10 years old.”

>> Watch Haygood's video here (WARNING: Viewer discretion advised)

Haygood watched as her son was removed from his classroom for allegedly leaving a paraprofessional with scratches and other marks back in October. He was arrested on an outstanding warrant on allegations of felony battery on a school board authority.

“I was extremely angry. That I felt like this was a power play. I felt like this was a this is what you get. You can’t do anything about it. We’re going to arrest your son if he can’t abide by the rules,” Haygood told WFOR, adding that her son's disability is the reason behind his behavior. “To go and have him arrested on school grounds in front of other students, in front of personnel, during school hours – they could’ve come to my house at any time to tell me what was going on.”

>> Read more trending news

The boy reportedly spent one night in juvenile detention, according to the Washington Post. The child was then released on house arrest and is expected to appear in court next month.

Haygood said the incident would never have happened if the school had the proper services to address his disability.

“I want something done," she told WFOR. "I want other kids to not have to go through this.”

According to CNN, the school district released the following statement:

"It has been district procedure to invite students in to take the Florida Standards Assessment. The district would not invite someone to one of our campuses for the sole purpose to arrest.

"The district routinely assists students by providing services from our board certified behavioral analyst, licensed mental health counselors, school social workers, and psychologists. As a team, these individuals develop interventions, conduct assessments, and offer support both at school and in the home in order to assist students and families.

"The district is unable to provide specific information as to both current and past incidents regarding this or any other student due to educational laws and rules. It is our hope that we can continue to work with all families to help their students improve both behaviorally and academically."

– The Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.

Related

Harrison Twp. crews extinguish house fire, firefighters remain on scene

Published: Sunday, April 23, 2017 @ 12:33 AM

UPDATE @ 1:47 a.m.

Flames are now out at a Harrison Twp. home that caught fire Sunday morning. 

Dispatchers said crews remain in the area and Syracuse Avenue is closed. 

It is unknown if anyone lives at the address or if anyone was at the home at the time of the fire. 

Dispatchers said people living in a neighboring home have been evacuated.

INITIAL REPORT

Harrison Twp. fire crews are battling a fully engulfed house fire Sunday morning. 

Firefighters were sent to the 600 block of Syracuse Avenue around 12:22 a.m. 

Initial reports indicate crews arrived to find a house in the area fully engulfed in flames.

A portion of Syracuse Avenue remains closed as crews work the scene, according to scanner traffic.

We will continue to monitor this developing story and post updates to this page.

Daytime burglars steal thousands in guns, electronics from Dayton home

Published: Saturday, April 22, 2017 @ 11:37 PM

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A man returned home from work Friday evening to find his doors unlocked and thousands of dollars in electronics, weapons and cash missing.

Police were called around 5:30 p.m. to the 1800 block of East Fifth Street in Dayton on a report of a daytime burglary. The suspect or suspects are believed to have entered through a side window on the first floor, which was broken, according to a Dayton police report. 

Items stolen include a small fireproof safe containing $3,800; four flat-screen televisions and other electronics, including an Xbox, DVD player, sound bar and cable boxes.

Weapons also were taken, including two collector knives and 12 guns: a 9mm Glock, two 44mm Rugers, a silver 40mm Smith & Wesson, four rifles and four shotguns, the report stated. 

The value of the stolen items is in excess of $10,000 during the burglary in broad daylight. A crew was requested to the home to try to find evidence leading to a suspect or suspects.

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