Coroner: Most Pike Co. massacre victims shot many times, some bruised

Law enforcement has closed down Union Hill Road in Pike County, Ohio, while they investigate a shooting with multiple fatalities on Friday, April 22, 2016. Authorities say multiple people have been shot to death in rural Ohio, some 80 miles east of Cincinnati. (Chris Russell/The Columbus Dispatch via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT Emergency vehicles are stationed on Union Hill Road in Pike County near the scene of a multiple homicide investigation.

CINCINNATI (AP/WCMH) – A coroner’s report released Tuesday showed new details of vicious violence in the shooting deaths of eight members of a rural southern Ohio family, finding most victims were shot three to nine times each and some of them were bruised. Meanwhile, the hunt for whoever is responsible continued to expand, with more than 200 law enforcement officials involved.

A 911 caller on Friday said the bodies of two people found in one home looked to be beaten up. Attorney General Mike DeWine has called the slayings a carefully planned and “sophisticated operation” carried out against eight members of the Rhoden family by one or more killers.

The Hamilton County coroner said the victims – three women, four men and a 16-year-old boy – had wounds to their heads, torso and other parts of the body. Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco said one victim had a single wound, one had two wounds, and the rest had three or more. The report didn’t specify which victim had which number of wounds.

Some victims showed “signs of soft tissue bruising,” her report stated. Sammarco’s office declined to discuss its findings, citing the ongoing investigation. Funeral arrangements for the victims hadn’t yet been announced.

Authorities haven’t suggested a motive or suspects. DeWine has said there were marijuana-growing operations found at three of the four places where bodies were found in Pike County, a rural Appalachian Mountain region roughly 80 miles east of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

DeWine said Tuesday that investigators have received more than 300 tips and are still serving search warrants. He said 79 pieces of evidence have been sent to a state crime lab for testing and analysis, including for DNA and fingerprints.

Ohio and Pike County authorities are leading the investigation, with help from some two dozen other agencies including other county sheriffs. The FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration are also offering assistance.

A woman who called 911 on Friday morning to report finding two of the bodies said that she saw “blood all over the house” and that the two looked like they had been badly beaten.

The victims are 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.

Kristi Grooms, who was friends with Dana Rhoden, told NBC4 the news “dumbfounded” her.

“You don’t hear about that kind of stuff here,” she said.

Grooms had not heard some of the details of the autopsy before her interview with NBC4.

“Oh my god,” she said. “That’s an assassination. They really need to catch who did this.

“I hope she (Dana) flies high and hopefully one day I’ll see her again.”

Leonard Manley, Dana Rhoden’s father, told The Cincinnati Enquirer that he first learned about the marijuana operations from news reports. Manley, 64, said he’s sure his daughter couldn’t have been involved in anything illegal.

“They are trying to drag my daughter through the mud, and I don’t appreciate that,” said Manley, whose three grandchildren – Dana’s children – were also among the dead.

Manley also found it suspicious that any assailants were able to get by his daughter’s two dogs.

“Whoever done it knows the family,” Manley said. “There were two dogs there that would eat you up.”

DeWine said Monday there was also possible evidence of cockfighting at one of the properties, but he didn’t know if it was relevant to the investigation.


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