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Still no answers 4 weeks after Pike County shootings

Published: Wednesday, May 04, 2016 @ 12:18 PM
Updated: Friday, May 20, 2016 @ 6:50 AM

            Mobile home as it travels under deputy and police escort through Waverly on way to Rhoden investigation command center at 4:25 pm today.
Mobile home as it travels under deputy and police escort through Waverly on way to Rhoden investigation command center at 4:25 pm today.

No arrests have been made in the shooting investigation of eight execution-style killings of members of the Rhoden family last month in Pike County, Ohio.

  • Crime scenes released to Rhoden family
  • Mobile homes relocated to secure evidence
  • Union Hill Road where crimes happened has reopened
  • AG’s office asking for any video from properties nearby
  • Large-scale marijuana grow operations discovered at three of four murder scenes

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Today is the four-week mark since the Pike County shootings.

The crime scenes were released to the Rhoden family late Monday, Dan Tierney, spokesman for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, said Thursday. The land is private property, he said.

No media events are scheduled at this time, Tierney said Thursday.

Road barricades have been removed from Union Hill Road where the crimes occurred, and the roadway reopened to the public Tuesday, confirmed the Pike County Sheriff’s Office.

The Dispatch reported last week that Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader met with surviving relatives May 12.

“We went into that meeting hoping they had an arrest or somebody in custody,” Tony Rhoden told the Dispatch. “They did not.”

The Dispatch also reported that according to sources, Kenneth Rhoden was the only one shot just once and Chris Sr. sustained the most shots, with nine.

Three children — a 4-day-old, a 6-month-old and a 3-year-old — were found unharmed at the crime scenes.

The Dispatch reported that the 3-year-old is in the care of his mother, Chelsea Robinson, while the youngest two are in the care of children services.

On May 13, the fourth and final mobile home that housed members of the Rhoden family killed was moved to investigation headquarters in Waverly, escorted by several sheriff’s deputies.

Three mobile homes were moved the day before in order to secure evidence and preserve family belongings and mementos, Tierney said.

The mobile homes hauled to Waverly have been stored out of sight at a former chemical plant. Investigators have not said how long they will hold the Rhoden homes, our news partners at WBNS reported.

Vehicles on the Rhoden properties also were hauled to Waverly. There’s been no word on how many vehicles were towed.

DeWine said May 12 that moving the crime scenes also would protect Rhoden family mementos.

“We want to make sure we are preserving them for family members,” DeWine said. “There are pictures in there, and other things, very important to the family members.”

At the Pike County Clerk’s Office, search warrants were immediately put under seal, making them inaccessible to the public. The court order putting them under seal also is under seal, said deputy clerk of courts Hannah Holbrook.

The eight victims were Hannah Gilley, 20; Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40; Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16; Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 20; Dana Rhoden, 37; Gary Rhoden, 38; Hanna Rhoden, 19; Kenneth Rhoden, 44.

>> RELATED: Learn more about the 8 Pike County victims

The attorney general would not speculate if those who killed the Rhodens were likely from out of the area or local.

“On the second day (of the investigation), I think I said this could very well be a long investigation,” DeWine said. “When you end up finding bodies and you don’t have a witness, the nature of these cases is you are putting a puzzle together.

“This will not be solved overnight.”

The Ohio Attorney General and Pike County Sheriff are seeking any video from nearby residents or businesses in the Pike County and Adams County region that may be relevant to the ongoing investigation.

Specifically, those with video recorded on April 21 or April 22 are asked to call the BCI tip line at 1-855-BCI-OHIO (224-6446) or 740-947-2111. DeWine also requests any additional tips to continue to be called in the the BCI tip line.

Space on two billboards along U.S. 23 in Pike County have been donated to publicize the numbers. Investigators have received more than 500 tips so far, but are still urging those with information to contact them.

>> RELATED: Pike County killings bring back memories of infamous Moreland case

All eight victims have been laid to rest. Three children under the age of 3 in the homes were spared.

>> RELATED: Thank God they didn’t take those babies

An initial investigation report was released April 28. The first deaths were reported about 7:51 a.m. April 22.

Deputies were first called to a home at 4077 Union Hill Road for a report of two bodies.

Arriving deputies were flagged down to dispatch additional medic units after more bodies were found at multiple residences.

Deputies found the front door open at 4077 Union Hill Road, and a large amount blood on the living room floor. Two deceased males were found in a back bedroom.

DeWine and Reader said they toured the various crime scenes April 27.

“I wanted to go inside and take a look,” DeWine said in a press conference that afternoon. “You get a better understanding of the case.”

Reader said, “It’s absolutely shocking some of these scenes.”

DeWine said that this shooting is not like other recent mass shootings across the country.

“This is not that type of situation,” DeWine said. “This is an old-fashioned, cold-blooded massacre of eight human beings.”

>> RELATED: How the Pike Co. manhunt compares to 121 other recent mass shootings

The few official details released April 26 reinforced the brutality with which eight members of the same family were slaughtered by killers still at large.

The victims suffered 32 gunshot wounds altogether — 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 preliminary autopsy information.

The bruising is consistent with initial reports from the 911 caller who first reported the crimes April 22.

Investigators and prosecutors previously said three of the four murder scenes contained marijuana grow operations of a commercial scale, at least one of them indoors.

“This is a pre-planned execution of eight individuals. It was a sophisticated operation and those who carried it out were trying to do everything they could do to hinder the investigation and their prosecution,” DeWine said during a news conference April 24. “We don’t know if it was one or two (shooters).”

DeWine has said the possibility of a Mexican drug cartel connection has not been ruled out and that investigators are looking at everything.

He said although he would not rule out the fact that members of a drug cartel may have killed the eight members of the Rhoden family, there’s no evidence at this time to indicate that that’s the case.

DeWine added that he can’t definitively say the Rhoden family was involved in cockfighting, but when he visited one of the crime scenes April 22, he noticed roosters in cages that are normally associated with cockfighting.

Additionally, the marijuana grow operations that authorities discovered appeared to be for commercial use, he said, declining to go into specifics. He also declined to say if there are indications that any of the victims were aware of the grow operations.

The marijuana grow operations found were not simply a few random plants in a field somewhere, the Columbus Dispatch reported from an interview with Pike County Prosecutor Rob Junk. He told Dispatch reporters at least one was indoors and there appeared to be several hundreds of plants.

“It wasn’t just somebody sitting pots in the window,” Junk told the Dispatch.

Reader said the family did not have prior criminal contact with his office.

“This investigation is very large, probably the largest in Pike County we have ever been a part of,” Reader said.

Seven of the deceased were found in three Union Hill Road homes in Piketon, while the eighth was found within a 10-minute drive from the other victims — most of whom were executed while in bed. All the killings occurred during the nighttime hours.

Three children — a 4-day-old, a 6-month-old and a 3-year-old — were found unharmed at the scenes.

The first 9-1-1 call that Piketon police received came from a woman at 7:49 a.m. April 22. The woman tells the dispatcher that she walked into a house in the 4000 block of Union Hill Road and “found them all dead.”

The home is where two males were found dead — one of four locations where bodies were found April 22.

“There’s blood all over the house,” the caller cried, gasping. “My brother-in-law is in the bedroom. It looks like someone has beat the hell out of him.”

She found the two male victims lying on the floor. She reported that no one else was in the home and broke into tears, according to the 9-1-1 recording.

A man is heard in the second 9-1-1 call, recorded at 1:26 p.m. April 22.

The man was at a residence in the 700 block of West Fork Road. He told the dispatcher he walked in and called out for his cousin before finding him dead with a gunshot wound.

The news of the other deaths had already been reported by the time this death was discovered.

“All that stuff that’s on the news, I just found my cousin with a gunshot wound,” the caller tells the dispatcher.