Authorities quiet on probe into slayings of 8 family members

PIKETON, Ohio (AP) — Authorities were tight-lipped Wednesday about their investigation into the slayings of eight family members in a rural part of the state, and the attorney general said they wanted to avoid informing the killer or killers about what they know.

It’s been five days since the bodies of seven adults and a teenage boy were found shot in their homes in the hills near Piketon, a poor Appalachian Mountain town roughly 80 miles east of Cincinnati. Authorities say they’ve interviewed more than 50 people but haven’t made arrests or confirmed a motive for the slayings.

“I assume the person or the people who committed these murders are watching the news reports about Pike County,” state Attorney General Mike DeWine said. “I do not intend or want to broadcast any information that would let them know details about this investigation.”

Earlier in the day, DeWine and other officials visited the four homes where the victims were killed Friday. Seven members of the Rhoden family were shot multiple times, and one had nine gunshot wounds, a coroner said. Some victims also had bruising.

“It’s absolutely shocking, some of these scenes,” Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader said at a news conference with DeWine.

DeWine noted that the shootings were different from many multiple murders.

“This is an old-fashioned, cold-blooded, calculated massacre of eight human beings,” the attorney general said.

DeWine said marijuana found at three of the four houses was not being grown for personal use but rather involved a commercial operation. Authorities said it was unclear what, if any, role the marijuana discovery would play in the investigation.

Reader said he has 10 times as many officers on the road as he usually does.

The victims were 40-year-old Christopher Rhoden Sr.; his ex-wife, 37-year-old Dana Rhoden; their three children, 16-year-old Christopher Rhoden Jr., 19-year-old Hanna Rhoden and 20-year-old Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden; 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 Rhoden was unharmed.

Two other children, Hanna Rhoden’s 4-day-old daughter and Frankie Rhoden’s 3-year-old son, also were unharmed.

Reader said the children are doing well, but he declined to say where they were or who was taking care of them.

And while DeWine said he understands that people care about the victims and want to help, he warned of a scam in which someone was claiming to be from the sheriff’s office and was asking for donations. He said people should not give money.

DeWine and Reader again urged people to come forward with any information related to the killings.

“There are people out there who have information,” DeWine said. “I don’t want anyone to think that what they may know is not valuable.”

DeWine stressed that authorities would do whatever is necessary to solve the crimes.

“We are going to find whoever did this,” he said.


This story has been corrected to show the quote about shocking scenes was from the sheriff, not from the attorney general.

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