Authorities: Evidence of pot, cockfighting at killing scenes

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — As the investigation into the killings of eight family members in rural Ohio entered its fifth day, more details slowly trickled out.

Pike County Prosecutor Rob Junk told the Columbus Dispatch Monday that the marijuana operations discovered at three of the four crime scenes included a grow-house sheltering hundreds of plants.

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

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine later added that that there was possible evidence of cockfighting at one of the properties, but he said he did not know what was relevant to the investigation.

Law enforcement officials had been familiar with the family only for other reasons, Junk told the Columbus Dispatch.

“Altercations with people, that sort of thing,” he said. “Nothing like this.”

All eight victims were fatally shot in the head on Friday in Piketon, about 60 miles south of Columbus and 90 miles east of Cincinnati.

Two of the four homes that became crime scenes are within walking distance of each other. The others are nearby.

The victims were identified as 40-year-old Christopher Rhoden Sr.; his ex-wife, 37-year-old Dana Rhoden; their three children; Christopher Rhoden Sr.’s brother, 44-year-old Kenneth Rhoden; their cousin, 38-year-old Gary Rhoden; and 20-year-old Hannah Gilley, whose 6-month old son with “Frankie” was unharmed.

More than a dozen counselors, clergy and psychologists arrived at the local high school on Monday to help friends and neighbors cope with their grief as they remembered the victims as loyal and caring people.

Dana Rhoden, who was killed along with her three children, her ex-husband, and three other relatives, “always wanted what was best for her kids,” Scioto Valley Local School District Superintendent Todd Burkitt said.

The youngest victim, Christopher Rhoden Jr., was a 16-year-old freshman at Piketon High School.

“He was the first one that if he thought that someone wasn’t being treated fairly or felt like someone wasn’t being treated appropriately, he would speak up about it,” Burkitt said.

The teen’s siblings — 19-year-old Hanna Rhoden and 20-year-old Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden — also had attended the school.

No arrests have been made, and officials have not said if they have any suspects in mind.

While they have not released any details about a motive, the Attorney General’s office did confirm Monday that one of the victims had received a threat via Facebook. Junk, the prosecutor, did not immediately respond to multiple requests from The Associated Press for comment.

DeWine also said the state’s crime lab was looking at 18 pieces of evidence from a DNA and ballistic standpoint, and that five search warrants were executed. More than 100 tips were given to investigators, and a Cincinnati-area businessman offered a $25,000 reward for details leading to those responsible.


Associated Press writers Kantele Franko and Andrew Welsh-Huggins in Columbus and Dan Sewell in Cincinnati contributed to this report.

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