PIKETON, Ohio (AP) — Authorities urged residents to be cautious in this part of rural southern Ohio heading into the weekend as the search continued for whoever fatally shot eight members of a family at four different properties.
The victims found Friday southwest of Piketon include seven adults and a 16-year-old boy.
Authorities say all were shot in the head and that it appeared some were killed as they slept, including a mother in bed with her 4-day-old baby nearby. The infant and two other small children were not hurt.
Authorities didn’t release the victims’ names but said they’re members of the Rhoden family. Investigators said none of the deaths appeared self-inflicted, so they believe at least one assailant is at large.
Law enforcement officials say whoever is responsible for the killings should be considered armed and dangerous.
A motive for the slayings isn’t known, authorities said, but they urged surviving members of the Rhoden family to take precautions. Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader also recommended area residents be extra wary.
“This really is a question of public safety, and particularly for any of the Rhoden family,” Attorney General Mike DeWine said.
Reader said Friday night that authorities had met with more than 100 relatives and friends of the Rhoden family at a church.
Authorities said more than 30 people had been interviewed, but DeWine dismissed a report that those questioned included a person of interest.
The Pike County Sheriff’s Office and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation are investigating the slayings. Pike County asked for the bureau’s help Friday morning.
The first three homes where bodies were found are within a couple miles on a sparsely populated stretch of road, while the eighth body, that of a man, was found in a house father away.
Authorities didn’t release any information on what kind or how many weapons might have been used or whether anything was missing from the homes.
Goldie Hilderbran said she lives about a mile from where she has been told a shooting took place — news she received from a mail carrier who told her deputies had an area blocked off.
“She just told me she knew something really bad has happened,” Hilderbran said.
Gov. John Kasich, campaigning in Connecticut for his Republican presidential bid, said his office was monitoring the situation in Pike County and the search for the killer or killers.
“But we’ll find them, we’ll catch them and they’ll be brought to justice,” he said.
The FBI in Cincinnati also said it was closely monitoring the situation and has offered assistance if needed.
Economically distressed Pike County, about 80 miles east of Cincinnati on the western edge of Appalachia, has about 28,000 people, more than a quarter of whom live in poverty. The area is home to a shuttered Cold War-era uranium plant that’s still being cleaned up.
Associated Press writers Dan Sewell and Lisa Cornwell in Cincinnati and Mark Gillispie in Cleveland contributed to this report.