COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Attorney General Mike DeWine said Sunday that the slayings of eight family members in rural southern Ohio “was a pre-planned execution” and he expects the investigation will be lengthy.
“I want to stress that this investigation is very large, probably the largest in Pike County that we’ve ever been a part of,” Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader said.
The Friday killings at four different homes near Piketon was “a sophisticated operation,” DeWine said at a news conference in the small community that has been on edge since the seven adults and one teenage boy were found shot in the head.
Reader said most of the victims were targeted while they were sleeping. Authorities said Hanna Rhoden was in bed with her newborn baby nearby when she was shot. The infant was 4- or 5-days old. The baby, Hannah Gilley’s 6-month-old baby, and one other small child were not hurt.
“This was very methodical. This was well-planned. This was not something that just happened,” Reader said.
He does not believe the community is in immediate danger, however he did warn members of the Rhoden family to be aware and “arm themselves” because it appears the family was targeted.
Authorities have been scrambling to determine who targeted the clan and why, and they still don’t know how many shooters were involved. Investigators have received over 100 tips and conducted 50-60 interviews in hopes of finding leads in the deaths.
The victims were identified Saturday as 40-year-old Christopher Rhoden Sr.; his 16-year-old son, Christopher Rhoden Jr.; 44-year-old Kenneth Rhoden; 38-year-old Gary Rhoden; 37-year-old Dana Rhoden; 20-year-old Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden; 20-year-old Hannah Gilley; and 19-year-old Hanna Rhoden.
Deputies from multiple counties are keeping the scenes secured for BCI agents and investigators, even though searches are completed.
DeWine said hundreds of personnel have come to assist and are working around the clock.
Since the slayings, authorities have refused to discuss many details of the crime, including any evidence or the search for the assailant or assailants.
DeWine did confirm that investigators collected 18 pieces of evidence from five search warrants of four crime scenes. He also said that marijuana growing operations were found at three of the scenes.
Two of the crime scenes are within walking distance of each other along a sparsely populated, winding road that leads into wooded hills from a rural highway. The third residence is more than a mile away, and the fourth home is on a different road, at least a 10-minute drive away, said the investigation’s leader, Benjamin Suver, a special agent in charge with Bureau of Criminal Investigations.
A Cincinnati-area businessman put up a $25,000 reward for information leading to the capture and conviction of the killer or killers.
Associated Press writers Kantele Franko in Piketon, Lisa Cornwell in Cincinnati, and Albert Stumm in Philadelphia contributed to this report.