PIKE COUNTY, OH (WCMH) — Eight people were found dead Friday at four crime scenes in rural Ohio, and at least most of them were shot to death, authorities said. Officials say they are still actively looking for at least one shooter that should be considered armed and dangerous.
Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader said there have been “over 30 persons interviewed” in this investigation as of Friday evening, but Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said he “would not use the term ‘person of interest'” to describe any of those interviewers.
“We anticipate a number of other people will be interviewed,” DeWine said.
He said they have not determined how many shooters were involved, but said there does not appear to be a threat to the community. He said they believe a suspect is not among those victims.
Seven of the victims, including one child, were slain in “execution-style killings” at three homes along a rural road, authorities said. Attorney General Mike DeWine said it appears all of the victims were shot in the head. One of those victims was shot in bed next to her 4-day-old child.
That child, along with two others, ages 6 months and 3 years old, survived the mass killings.
Details on the death of the eighth person weren’t immediately available, but the body was found in a fourth location, said Jill Del Greco, spokeswoman with the Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
The four scenes spanned out across a 10-minute drive.
DeWine and Reader had said earlier that seven victims were believed to be members of the same family. All were shot to death, they said.
“All of the victims are believed to possibly be members of the same family, and they were found in three Union Hill Road homes in Piketon. Early indications are that the victims, who are believed to be five adults and two juveniles, were shot to death,” the AG’s office said in a statement. “This is not an active shooter situation, however no arrests have been made. The investigation is in its very early stages, and authorities are still investigating to determine a motive, identify the deceased, and determine if the gunman is among the deceased individuals or on the loose.”
“This is a horrible horrible tragedy,” DeWine said on WLW. “It looks like two teenagers dead and it looks like young young children who must have been there when it occurred.”
DeWine’s office said a dozen Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents had been called to Pike County, an economically struggling area in the Appalachian region some 80 miles east of Cincinnati. Spokesman Dan Tierney says the Pike County Sheriff’s Office requested state help at 8:20am.
Tierney had no information on whether a suspect was in custody. Agents headed to the scene included members of Criminal Intelligence, Cyber Crimes and Special Investigations.
Goldie Hilderbran, 65, said she lives about a mile from where she has been told 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.
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.
The FBI in Cincinnati also said it was closely monitoring the situation and has offered assistance to the Pike County sheriff’s office if needed.
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Peebles High School imposed a precautionary lockout Friday morning after authorities notified the superintendent of shootings that had occurred a few miles away, according to Regina Bennington, secretary to the superintendent for the Adams County Ohio Valley Schools district. The partial lockdown meant no students were allowed outside and doors are locked. The district released the following statement:
We’ve had lots of calls regarding the incident that happened this morning on Union Hill. The incident was in the Scioto Valley District and was on the south side of 32, not the north side (our side). THERE HAS NOT BEEN AN INCIDENT AT WESTERN. We have been in contact with the Sheriff’s Department and we are operating with precaution. We are having classes but no students are permitted outside for recess, PE, etc. We are keeping all students inside and doors are locked as always. We are taking precautions to make sure your kids are safe. We are following the procedures suggested by Sheriff Reader. I will update you as soon as I have more information.
Waverly City Schools took similar precautions and released the following statement:
In response to the situation that occurred in Western Pike County today, we wanted to notify our parents that Sheriff Reader has ensured us that there are no threats to any school in the Waverly City School District. I will send any further updates if necessary.
High school officials said the school was back to normal operations later Friday morning.
Piketon is the site of a Cold War-era uranium plant that was closed in 2001 and is still being cleaned up.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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