Coroner: Most victims shot many times, some bruised

Ann Sanner

Associated Press


(AP) — Seven of eight relatives who were killed in their southern Ohio homes had been shot multiple times, including one who was shot nine times, according to autopsy results released Tuesday. Some also had bruising, which matched a report from a 911 caller who said two appeared to have been beaten up.

The Hamilton County coroner said the victims — three women, four men and a 16-year-old boy — had wounds to their heads, torso and other parts of the body. Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco’s report said one victim had a single wound, one had two wounds, and the rest had three or more. The report didn’t specify which victim had which number of wounds.

Ohio’s attorney general has called the deaths carefully planned slayings carried out at four locations in Piketon, a rural Appalachian Mountain region community. Mike DeWine has also said there were marijuana growing operations at three of the locations where bodies were found.

DeWine said Tuesday that investigators have received more than 300 tips and are continuing to serve search warrants in an effort to identify the killer or killers. He said 79 pieces of evidence have been sent to a state crime lab for testing and analysis.

Authorities have said members of the Rhoden family were targeted in the slayings.

A woman who called 911 Friday morning to report finding two of the bodies said that she saw “blood all over the house” and that the two looked like they had been badly beaten.

The victims are 40-year-old Christopher Rhoden Sr.; his ex-wife, 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 was unharmed. Two other children, a 6-month-old and a 3-year-old, were also unharmed.

Leonard Manley, father of Dana Rhoden, told the Cincinnati Enquirer that he first learned about the marijuana operations from news reports. Manley, 64, said he’s sure his daughter couldn’t have been involved in anything illegal.

“They are trying to drag my daughter through the mud, and I don’t appreciate that,” said Manley, whose three grandchildren — Dana’s children — were also among the dead.

Manley also noted that the assailant was able to get by his daughter’s two dogs.

“Whoever done it knows the family,” Manley said. “There were two dogs there that would eat you up.”

Pike County Prosecutor Rob Junk told the Columbus Dispatch on Monday that the marijuana operations included a grow house sheltering hundreds of plants.

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

DeWine said Monday there was also possible evidence of cockfighting at one of the properties, but he didn’t know what was relevant to the investigation.

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 “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 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.

Hanna and Frankie Rhoden also had attended the school.

While authorities 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. Authorities didn’t elaborate.

A Cincinnati-area businessman offered a $25,000 reward for details leading to those responsible.

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