Shootings in Pike County: Family to release statement

UPDATE @ 11:30 a.m.

No arrest has been made in the ongoing investigation into the execution-style killings of eight members of the Rhoden family in Pike County, according to a release from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office.

Investigators from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and local law enforcement worked through the night conducting interviews, gathering information and executing search warrants, according to the release.

Evidence from the crime scenes is being processed and analyzed, but the investigation is still in its early stages and no arrests have been made, according to the release.

At the request of Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader, Ohio BCI is leading the investigation, including BCI units for crime scenes, criminal intelligence, cyber crimes and Crime Victims Services, according to the release.

The family is expected to release a statement to at a local church later today.

DeWine’s office is asking anyone with information that could help in the investigation to call (855) BCI-OHIO, or the Pike County Sheriff’s Office at (740) 947-2111.

EARLIER

Eight members of one rural southern Ohio family were shot in the head and killed — including a mother next to her four-day-old baby who was spared — prompting the Pike County sheriff to warn residents “to lock their doors and stay alert.”

By late Friday night, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said more than 30 people had been interviewed but would not call any a person of interest.

The bodies were found Friday morning at four sites. The dead included seven adults and one 16-year-old male, most of whom were executed while in bed.

About Pike County

  • 28,217: Population
  • 2,158: Piketon population
  • 300: Estimated jobs at county’s largest employer, United States Enrichment Corp.
  • 200: Estimated jobs at county’s second largest employer, Ohio Valley Veneer
  • 11: Number of churches in Piketon
  • 8.6: Percent unemployed in Pike County

(Sources: U.S. Census, Pike County, Churchfinder.com, and Ohio Job and Family Services)

“This is not something that you prepare for,” Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader said.

In all, three children — the four-day-old, one six months old and another 3 years old — were found unharmed at the scenes.

DeWine and Reader said in a joint statement that the deaths occurred “in what appears to be execution-style killings.”

The killer or killers responsible were still at large, Reader said, as dozens of investigators from the sheriff’s office and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office worked multiple scenes Friday.

“I am still actively looking for a shooter,” Reader said.

Seven of the deceased were found in three Union Hill Road homes in Piketon. The eighth was found within a 10-minute drive from the other victims.

Reader said he suspected the killings were targeted and none of the victims appeared to be suicides. All the killings occurred during the nighttime hours.

The victims were identified as members of the Rhoden family, but officials did not release specific identities.

“It’s heartbreaking,” DeWine said. “The one mom was killed in her bed with the 4-day-old right there.”

The scene was described as including homes and trailer homes.

“This is a horrible tragedy that has occurred here in Pike County,” DeWine said. “We advise Pike County residents not to panic but to be careful.”

That warning extended to surviving relatives of the deceased, who were offered protection by the sheriff.

The Columbus Dispatch reported that Pastor Phil Fulton said the dead include Dana Rhoden, her children, some grandchildren and her ex-husband.

“Dana loved her family. She worked hard,” said Fulton, pastor of the Union Hill Church, where she used to attend.

“What a tragic thing, a tragic thing,” Fulton said. “We just have to lift this family, this community and this whole country up in prayer.”

The locations are about an hour and 40 minutes from Dayton.

A neighbor told a WCPO-TV reporter that that the crime scenes are on properties owned by parents and grandparents, likely of the children killed.

Goldie Hilderbran, 65, told the Associated Press that she lives about a mile from where the shootings took place.

“I first heard about it this morning from our mail carrier,” Hilderbran said.

Hilderbran said the mail carrier told her deputies had stopped her from delivering mail in the area they had blocked off.

“She just told me she knew something really bad has happened,” Hilderbran said.

Officials said they did not have a motive.

DeWine and Reader requested that anyone with information regarding the eight dead to call 1-855-BCI-OHIO (224-6446) or the Pike County Sheriff’s Office at 740-947-2111.

Agents with the Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) were asked to lead the investigation at the request of Reader.

The BCI agents included personnel from the Special Investigations Unit, Crime Scene Unit, Criminal Intelligence Unit and Cyber Crimes Unit.

Pike County is an Appalachian area that has struggled economically. It includes Piketon, where a Cold War-era uranium plant closed in 2001 and is still part of a federal cleanup effort.

The deaths were discovered after a 911 call about two dead males inside one Union Hill Road address. During that response, deputies were flagged down and sent two other places where they discovered bodies. The final victim was found hours later at a fourth site.

The deaths prompted a brief precautionary lockdown Friday morning at Peebles High School, which is a few miles from the scenes. By noon, operations at the school were back to normal.

Gov. John Kasich, campaigning in Pennsylvania for his Republican presidential bid, said his office was monitoring the situation in Pike County.

“Reports we are receiving from Peebles are tragic beyond comprehension,” Kasich wrote on his Twitter account.

Dayton Daily News Staff Writer Nick Blizzard contributed to this report.

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