Half a year after 8 Ohio relatives killed, no answers

Andrew Welsh-Huggins
Associated Press

Piketon, Ohio — Six months after someone shot eight members of an extended family to death in their homes, surviving relatives are still waiting — for an explanation, for an arrest, for a hint of closure.

“I just want to know why?” said Tajianna Mead, of Waverly, whose 44-year-old father, Kenneth Rhoden, was among the victims.

When the slayings were discovered the morning of April 22, rural Pike County in the Appalachian foothills of southern Ohio was coming to life with the colors of greening hardwoods and the white petals of dogwood trees. Half a year later, colors are changing again as leaves turn to burnt yellow and red across the thickly wooded hills.

Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader told WCPO-TV this week that he now believes the killers were local .

Union Hill Road, where seven of the victims were found on three properties, is open again to traffic. “Private Property: No Trespassing” signs are posted at the end of the homes’ driveways. Porches sit stranded in yards, their steps leading nowhere: In May, investigators moved the mobile homes where the killings occurred to a secure location as the investigation continued.

Leonard Manley, who lost his daughter, Dana Rhoden, and three grandchildren, lives on Union Hill Road near all the crime scenes. He spends his days tinkering after retiring two years ago from cutting timber. He doesn’t know who committed the crime and questions whether it will be solved in his lifetime.

Manley, 65, has long thought the killers knew the properties intimately, in part because Christopher Rhoden Sr. had a security system, as well as a pit bull and bulldog, that would have been hard for a stranger to get past.

“You wake up at night, and you wonder. I get up of a night, 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning. Can’t go back to sleep, thinking about things,” Manley said.

Most of the victims were shot multiple times in the head. Some bodies showed signs of bruising, as if they’d been beaten.

Regardless of the delays and the mystery surrounding the deaths, Kendra Rhoden, Tajianna’s sister, believes the case will be solved. “My dad taught me to have hope,” Rhoden said.