PIKETON, Ohio – Authorities remained 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 16-year-old 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," said state Attorney General Mike DeWine, "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 of 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," DeWine said at a news conference with Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader. "This is an old-fashioned, cold-blooded, calculated massacre of eight human beings."
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 wasn't clear what, if any, role the marijuana discovery would play in the investigation.
Reader said he has 10 times the number of officers on the road that 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 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.
DeWine and Reader again urged people to come forward with any information related to the case.
"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.