Pike County murders: 8 deaths, 2 years, no answers

Published: Friday, April 20, 2018 @ 2:18 PM
Updated: Friday, April 20, 2018 @ 2:18 PM

New family monument at gravesite the only real change in unsolved murder of eight family members

Two years after the eight-person massacre in Pike County, investigators are providing fewer details than ever before in the case, marking the second anniversary without the lengthy, emotional press conference and plea for tips that highlighted the first.

The unsolved murders took place April 22, 2016.

» Pike County murders: ‘There will always be a scar on this town’

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

This week the three sites where members of the Rhoden and Gilley families were killed appeared unchanged from the early days of the investigation. As if frozen in time, toys, trash, appliances and abandoned vehicles remain spread about the properties and front porches of trailers that are no longer there - having been hauled away and stored as part of the investigation.

A billboard seeking information remains posted 300 feet from the Pike County Sheriff's Office two years after the murder of 8 Rhoden family members in rural Pike County. The crime remains unsolved. TY GREENLEES / STAFF(Ty Greenlees)

Those trailers are now housed in a large pole barn built last year by the county for just shy of $100,000.

PHOTOS: Pike County crime scenes unchanged after two years

About 20 miles south — past the former uranium enrichment plant in Piketon and across the Scioto River from the state prison in Lucasville — rest five members of the Rhoden family. The grass on their plots has grown past the straw first placed over the newly dug earth. New grave stones share their names and poem on the back of the family’s headstone captures a community’s grief.

“You never said, ‘I’m leaving,’ you never said goodbye, you were gone before we knew it, and only God knows why.”

Dana Rhoden, her daughter Hanna and son Chris Rhoden, Jr. were killed in their mobile home at this location on Union Hill Rd. in 2016. Two years after the murder of 8 Rhoden family members in rural Pike County, the crime remains unsolved. TY GREENLEES / STAFF(Ty Greenlees)

Busy summer, quiet winter

Finding the killers remains the top priority of Attorney General Mike DeWine, a candidate for Ohio governor. This week, DeWine said he remains hopeful the case will be solved. If unsolved by the general Election Day, the case will become a daunting challenge for one of the two men seeking to become his successor.

One year ago, the investigation appeared active. DeWine and Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader called reporters to DeWine’s high rise Columbus office in April 2017 for a long interview about the investigation. For a time, it seemed investigators were inching closer to solving the case. 

In May, authorities arrested James Manley, the brother of victim Dana Manley Rhoden, on charges of evidence tampering and vandalism after allegedly destroying a GPS tracker placed on his car during the investigation. 

Then, in June, “DeWine annouced he was “laser focused” on members of the Wagner family, a family in Kenai, Alaska who formerly lived near the Rhodens in Ohio. The Bureau of Criminal Investigation and other agencies executed search warrants at their former residence. 

And then, quiet.  

A Pike County judge dismissed the charges against Manley so that evidence could be presented to a grand jury. There have been no announcements since of any grand jury action. Manley’s attorney, James Boulger, and Pike County Prosecutor Rob Junk did not respond to requests for comment.

“I have nothing I can say about that,” DeWine said when asked about Manley’s case.

Dana Rhoden, her daughter Hanna and son Chris Rhoden, Jr. were killed in their mobile home at this location on Union Hill Rd. in 2016. Two years after the murder of 8 Rhoden family members in rural Pike County, the crime remains unsolved. TY GREENLEES / STAFF(Ty Greenlees)

Meanwhile, the Wagners, appeared to still be in Alaska as of December, when, according to Alaska court records, Edward Jacob “Jake” Wagner, 25, pleaded no contest to a speeding ticket issued in Soldotna, about a three hour drive south of Anchorage. Wagner fathered a daughter with Hannah Rhoden, one of the victims, but DeWine has not named him or three other family members — George “Billy” Wagner, his wife, Angela, and their other son, George — as suspects.

» Who are the Wagners? Pike County murders investigators want to know

The Wagners “continue to be saddened by the loss of the Rhodens,” John Kearson Clark Jr., the family’s attorney, told this newspaper this month. “Especially with each passing year, and yet the case is not resolved.” 

Aside from Hannah Rhoden, 19, the dead included her father Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40; his ex-wife, Dana Rhoden, 37; their sons, Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16, and Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 20; Frankie’s fiancee, Hannah Gilley, 20; and relatives Kenneth Rhoden, 44, and Gary Rhoden, 38.

“Despite what has been said and alleged, the Wagners were on friendly terms with the Rhodens,” Clark said by email. “Therefore, the Wagners had no reason to wish them harm. The Wagners wish the investigative authorities would expend their efforts in finding and holding the true killer(s) accountable. Only then will the Rhodens’ deaths be vindicated.”

Two years after the murder of 8 Rhoden family members in rural Pike County, the crime remains unsolved. TY GREENLEES / STAFF(Ty Greenlees)

In other media interviews Clark implied that DeWine was targeting the Wagner’s in order to make it appear progress was being made in the case.  Asked this month if DeWine is still “laser focused” on the family, his spokesman said “the AG’s comments from last year stand.”

But DeWine himself, in an interview, declined to say. 

“I’m really not going to talk about who we’re focused on,” DeWine said. “I can just saw we’re moving on the case and we’ve made progress, but I don’t think it would be beneficial to resolving the case to say who we’re focused on and who we’re not focused on.”

DeWine, sheriff still hopeful

Investigators across several agencies have spent an untold number of hours on the case since relatives discovered their slain family members. DeWine, the state’s top law enforcement official, emerged quickly alongside Sheriff Reader as the public faces of the investigation. The pair offered press conferences and interviews in hopes of encouraging someone to come forward with the information that would lead to solving the crimes.

Reader did not agree to a request for an interview this month.

“I have decided that out of respect for the victims, the family, friends, and for the integrity of the ongoing and active criminal investigation, I will not be doing any interviews or taking any questions concerning the multiple homicide that occurred in Pike County, Ohio on April 22, 2016,” Reader emailed the newspaper. “I remain very confident in the investigative staff.”

DeWine last year told this newspaper he hoped to solve the case before leaving the attorney general’s office.

“It’s a hypothetical, I certainly would hope we would have the case solved by then, but we have professionals that are working on this case,” DeWine said. “We have professionals that will remain with the attorney general’s office and that will remain with BCI. We hope we don’t get to that point. We hope we solve it before then.”

Pike County Sheriff's Office in Waverly. Two years after the murder of 8 Rhoden family members in rural Pike County, the crime remains unsolved. TY GREENLEES / STAFF(Ty Greenlees)

AG candidates face major task

Because officials have characterized the case as the largest criminal inquiry in Ohio history, the two candidates to become Ohio’s next attorney general - DeWine leaves office in January - face the decision of whether they would continue to consider solving the Pike County murders as the office’s number one priority.

“Anyone who would predict this nine months before taking office, without seeing the evidence and understanding the posture of the investigation at that time, is a fool, or a poltroon, or both — and not fit for the office of attorney general,” said Dave Yost, the Ohio auditor and Republican candidate for attorney general, in an email.

“Of the publicly available information, the only thing I can say I would have done differently is that I would have released the coroner’s report without litigation,” Yost said, referencing lawsuits that were filed by the news media to obtain the unredacted reports.

Yost’s Democratic opponent, Steve Dettelbach, held his cards even closer.

“I’ve spent two decades as a prosecutor,” Dettelbach, the former U.S. attorney for the northern district of Ohio, said by text message. “I don’t and won’t politicize an important murder investigation.”

Pike County murders: 8 deaths, 2 years, no answers

Taylor: ‘Unconscionable’ case unsolved

Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, DeWine’s Republican primary opponent in Ohio’s governor race, criticized the former Greene County prosecutor’s handling of the case, which she called “a terrible tragedy for an entire family and community.”

Taylor said BCI “is failing on many fronts,” citing a Dayton Daily News investigation last month examining the drug testing backlog at the agency’s lab, an issue unrelated to the Pike County deaths. A spokesman for BCI defended DeWine’s leadership at the agency, calling Taylor’s criticisms “another mistruth.”

“While I’m certain that law enforcement officers on the ground are working hard to solve this case, I’m concerned about the leadership coming out of the Attorney General’s office,” Taylor said in an email. “When this horrific crime was committed in Pike County, there was Mike DeWine in front of the cameras acting like real police, but two years in it is unconscionable that justice has yet to be served.”

DeWine campaign spokesman Ryan Stubenrauch said Taylor “should be ashamed.”

“Attempting to use one of the worst mass murders in Ohio’s history as a political attack while the case remains under investigation is horribly disrespectful to the victims, their families and to the law enforcement officers who are working hard to bring those responsible for this heinous crime to justice,” he said.

CONTINUING COVERAGE

In more than a dozen trips to Pike County during the past two years, Dayton Daily News reporters and photographers have followed the murders from the crime scenes, courthouse and Statehouse. The newspaper’s coverage of Ohio’s largest criminal investigation in history is made possible by your subscription.

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Dayton traffic from the WHIO Traffic Center

Published: Wednesday, May 16, 2018 @ 2:44 AM
Updated: Monday, May 21, 2018 @ 8:15 AM

SCENE: Car fire on NB I-675
SCENE: Car fire on NB I-675

Traffic issues can be reported by calling our newsroom at 937-259-2237 or tweeting @WHIOTraffic.

Traffic conditions are updated every six minutes on AM 1290 and News 95.7 FM.

Major Highway Incidents

  • No incidents to report. 

Surface Street Incidents

  • On South Clayton Road at Hemple Road, east of Farmersville, a three-vehicle crash was reported around 8:10 a.m.

>> RELATED: WHIO Weather App

>> RELATED: Track the latest conditions in your neighborhood on our live WHIO Doppler 7 Interactive Radar

Ongoing Construction & Other Closures 

Live look at highways on our traffic cameras here.

Latest traffic conditions are also available on our traffic map. 

MONTGOMERY COUNTY

  • Arlington Road between Pleasant Plain and Upper Lewisburg Salem Road, BRIDGE CLOSURE, March 5 - Sept. 30. All ramps for I-70 will remain open. 
  • Airport Access Road South between US 40 and I-70, Lane closure May 8 - 31. One southbound lane will remain open.
  • Diamond Mill Road between Upper Lewisburg-Salem Road and Pleasant Plain Road, ROAD CLOSURE April 30 - May 20. The official detour is: Upper Lewisburg Salem Road to Wellbaum Road to Brookville Salem Road
  • Keowee Street north of Stanley Avenue, bridge closed until 2019. The official detour is: Keowee Street to Stanley Avenue to I-75 to Wagner Ford Road and back to Dixie. More information is available here.
  • Stewart Street Ramp to US 35 East, RAMP CLOSURE March 28 - Sept 30, 2018. The official detour is: Stewart Street to Edwin C. Moses Boulevard to I-75 north to US 35 west to James H. McGee Blvd. to US 35 east.
  • I-75 north Ramp to US 35 west, RAMP CLOSURE, March 12 - Sept. 30. The official detour is: I-75 north to US 35 east to Jefferson/Main Street to Ludlow Street to US 35 west. 
  • I-75 between SR 48 and Needmore Road, Nightly lane closures April 29 - July 31 between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. Will become double lane closures at 10 p.m. 
  • SR 4 between Infirmary Road and Frytown Road, ROAD CLOSURE April 23 - June 3. The official detour is: SR 725 to I-75 to SR 4
  • SR 48 between First Street and Riverdale Street, Lane closure April 2, 2018 - April 1, 2019. One lane will remain open in each direction.
  • SR 48 between Monument Avenue and Riverview Avenue, BRIDGE CLOSURE May 18 - 21. The officials detour is: north Monument Avenue to Great Miami Boulevard to SR 48; south: Great Miami Boulevard to Riverside Drive to Monument Avenue to SR 48. 

GREENE COUNTY

  • I-675 near Dayton Yellow Springs Road, daily LANE CLOSURES, on both the north and south lanes due to bridge work May 21 - May 24 between 9 a.m.- 2 p.m. 
  • State Route 235 between Dayton Yellow Springs and Enon Roads, ROAD CLOSURE for six months. The official detour is U.S. 68, West Hyde, and West Enon Roads.
  • Trebein Road from U.S. 35, Lane restrictions April 16 - August, 2018 for construction of a right turn lane. One lane will remain maintained at all times with flagging operations. 

WARREN COUNTY

MIAMI COUNTY

  • N. Market Street between Foss Way/Kirk Lane and Stonyridge Avenue, ROAD CLOSURE March 5 at 7 a.m. - Aug. 10 at 5 p.m. 
  • SR 721 between Sugar Grove Road and Deeter Road, ROAD CLOSURE May 7 - 28. The official detour is SR 721 to SR 718 to SR 48 to US 36 to SR 721
  • US 36 westbound between Scott Drive and Kienle Drive, Lane closure March 26 - June 30. One westbound lane will remain open. 
  • US 36 between Scott Drive and Aerovent Drive, Lane closure April 26 - August 31. 

DARKE COUNTY

  • SR 705 between Groff Road and US 127, ROAD CLOSURE May 14 - 28. The official detour is: US 127 to SR 119 to SR 118
  • US 36/US 127 between Hogpath Road and Horatio- Harris Creek Road, Daily lane closures April 30 - August 31 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
  • Sweitzer Street/West Fourth Street between Pine Street and Sycamore Street, ROAD CLOSURE May 21 - 31. The official detour is: Pine Street to Washington Avenue to Broadway 

MERCER COUNTY

  • SR 117 between US 127 and SR 116, Daily lane closures April 23 - July 31 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. 
  • SR 49 between Menchhofer Road and SR 219, ROAD CLOSURE April 16 - 30. The official detour is: SR 29 to SR 118 to SR 219
  • SR 49 between SR 119 and St. Joes Road, BRIDGE CLOSURE May 7 - 25. The official detour is: SR 119 to SR 118 to SR 219
  • SR 29 between Wabash Road and Burrville Road, BRIDGE CLOSURE May 24 - June 13. The official detour is SR 49 to SR 219 to SR 118.

SHELBY COUNTY

  • SR 47 between Fifth Avenue and Wilkinson Avenue, Lane closures Jan. 21 - Nov. 27. One lane will remain open in each direction at all times. 
  • SR 274 between Shroyer Road and Island Avenue, Lane closure April 9 - June 9. One lane will remain open in each direction. 

CLARK COUNTY

  • I-70 east Ramp to I-675 north, RAMP CLOSURE March 15 - Aug. 15. The official detour is: I-70 east to I-675 south to SR 444 to I-675 north
  • Spangler Road south between Restoration Drive and I-70, Traffic pattern switch March 26 - August 15. Southbound Spangler Road traffic going to I-675 south and I-70 east will be moved to northbound side of I-675. Traffic will then be redirected to the southbound side of I-675 after passing over I-70. 

CHAMPAIGN COUNTY

  • Upper Valley Pike between State Route 296 and Lippincott Road, ROAD CLOSURE, starting April 16 for approximately four weeks.

LOGAN COUNTY

  • SR 274 between Morris Rose Road and SR 235, Daily lane closures May 1 - June 29 between 7 a.m. 5 p.m. 
  • SR 235 between SR 720 and SR 117, Daily lane closures May 1 - June 29 between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m.
  • SR 235 between Van Gorder Road County Road 54 and Main Street County Road 91, Lane closure April 30 - May 25.
  • SR 68 between SR 508 and Gunn Town Road, Daily lane closures April 23 - June 29 between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. 

AUGLAIZE COUNTY

  • SR 501 between Infirmary Road and National Road, daily lane closures April 30 - June 1 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. 
  • US 33 between SR 29 and I-75, Daily lane closures March 26 - July 31 between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. One lane will remain open in each direction. 

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Crews respond after reported shooting victim shows up to local hospital 

Published: Monday, May 21, 2018 @ 7:03 AM

Crews are responding to Miami Valley Hospital after a person reportedly showed up with a gunshot wound early Monday morning.

OTHER LOCAL NEWS: Police find man with gunshot wound to the head in Dayton home 

Initial reports indicate the individual was reportedly shot near a Shell gas station in the 3400 block of E. Third St.

We are working to learn more details and will continue to update this story. 

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Military brides in Dayton can get a free wedding dress this week

Published: Monday, May 21, 2018 @ 7:23 AM

WATCH: Marine's Son, 4, Bursts Into Tears, Hugs New Stepmom During Wedding Vows

A local organization is giving away wedding dress for military brides this week.

The third annual Marry Me Military for all military brides will take place on Sunday, May 27 in the Grand Ballroom at Holiday Inn Dayton/Fairborn. The event, offered by the United Service Organizations -Central and Southern Ohio, is open to 75 brides from noon to 3 p.m. The event has provided military brides with more than 300 free bridal gowns.

» Best state for veterans? Ohio isn’t on the list

Each bride can bring two guests. To be eligible for a complimentary wedding dress, brides must be an active duty, guard or reserve military member getting married, or the fiancé of an active duty, guard or reserve military member. If their military member is deployed, they must bring a copy of his/her orders and a short letter of introduction, along with their confirmation e-mail to be granted access to the event.

“We are excited to be able to provide wedding dresses to our military brides on their special day,” said Mia Walthers, center manager of WPAFB USO. “Often funds are low for our military members, so providing a new gown is one way our USO can show support to our new brides and help offset the expenses of the wedding. In the past, several brides told us they would have never been able to afford a dress like the one they got at the Marry Me Military events.”

Deadline to register is May 25.

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Best state for veterans? Ohio isn’t on the list

Published: Monday, May 21, 2018 @ 7:09 AM

HINES, IL - MAY 30:  A sign marks the entrance to the Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital on May 30, 2014 in Hines, Illinois. Hines,  which is located in suburban Chicago, has been linked to allegations that administrators kept secret waiting lists at Veterans Administration hospitals so hospital executives could collect bonuses linked to meeting standards for rapid treatment. Today, as the scandal continued to grow, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki apologized in public and then resigned from his post. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Scott Olson/Getty Images
HINES, IL - MAY 30: A sign marks the entrance to the Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital on May 30, 2014 in Hines, Illinois. Hines, which is located in suburban Chicago, has been linked to allegations that administrators kept secret waiting lists at Veterans Administration hospitals so hospital executives could collect bonuses linked to meeting standards for rapid treatment. Today, as the scandal continued to grow, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki apologized in public and then resigned from his post. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)(Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Ohio isn’t one of the best states for veterans, according to a new analysis.

The average officer is only 45 years old — 42 for non-disability enlisted personnel — upon retirement from service, according to WalletHub’s new analysis. Military retirees deal with re-assimilation into civilian life, sometimes facing challenges with the job markets, homelessness, disabilities and Post-Tramatic Stress Disorder.

» Your next weekend trip: 20 things to do, see, eat in Cincinnati

WalletHub ranked the best states for the military community, using a data set of 27 key metrics, ranging from veterans per capita to number of VA health facilities to job opportunities for veterans. Ohio didn’t rank in the top 20 states, landing at No. 23. The top states include:

1. Florida

2.Virginia

3. New Hampshire

4. Alabama

5. South Carolina

6. Maine

7. South Dakota

8. Alaska

9. Idaho

10. Texas

11. Montana

12. Minnesota

13. Massachusetts

14. Kentucky

15. Oklahoma

16. Luisiana

17. Wyoming

18. North Dakota

19. Missouri

20. Wisconsin

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