One Year After The Murders, Pike County Still Can't Move On
The call to 911 came in at 7:49 a.m. on April 22, 2016. In the hours that followed, authorities would find eight members of the Rhoden family shot to death at four rural Pike County locations.
Authorities blocked access to winding and narrow Union Hill Road where many of the Rhodens lived. Fear, says Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader, spread quickly.
Reader described the crime scenes as the “most brutal homicide of eight people that I have ever experienced.”
It’s been a year since the Rhoden family members, ages 16 to 44, were discovered. No one has been charged with the murders, and officials acknowledge that fear among locals has continued to this day – potentially hindering their ability to solve the case.
Just before 10 a.m. that morning last year, Phil Fulton, the pastor of nearby Union Hill Church, opened the fellowship hall to tearful, trembling relatives.
“It’s unimaginable… that four different locations, that something like this would take place,” Fulton says now. “It really shook the community to the very core. “You know, walk into a trailer and find a little baby laying between the mother and dad, and grabbing that child covered in blood and running out of the house.”
Law enforcement officials launched a massive investigation – one that Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine describes as the largest the state has ever seen.
“In the history of BCI, this is the biggest investigation that has ever occurred,” DeWine says. “Biggest in the sense of the number of interviews, biggest in the sense of number of hours that has been spent on this case.”
At its peak, officials say, almost 100 Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents were working in Pike County gathering evidence, running down tips, interviewing people with information. Police received nearly 900 tips, conducted several hundred interviews, executed three dozen search warrants.
The mobile homes in which the Rhodens lived were towed away and stored at a secure location – an attempt to preserve the crime scenes.
These days the number of BCI investigators in Pike County is somewhere around 10. Gone are the hordes of news media that descended on Pike County early on.
Resident after resident refused to the talk about the case.
DeWine acknowledges that locals might be losing hope. But he says he’s sure that the case will be solved.
“I fully understand residents of Pike County’s frustration that we are a year into this investigation and we do not have an arrest,” DeWine says. “However, our job as professionals is to continue to guide this investigation, continue to make the resources available, so that we can tell the people of Pike County we are absolutely doing everything in our power to figure out who committed these horrible, horrible crimes.”
The sheriff and attorney general continue to ask anyone with information to come forward. Investigators have offered $10,000 for any information that leads to a conviction, but according to the Associated Press, that's much less than similar offers.
Reader, though, says he thinks community members are holding back.
“Nobody is going to come and speak with us without the fear of them being known and maybe being subject to the same thing that these eight victims fell to,” Reader says. “The fear of retaliation from whoever these killers are – that’s real and people feel that.”
Those events, Pastor Fulton says, are forever etched in his memory.
“You know they say time heals. That’s not true,” Fulton says. “Time just helps you deal with it better. Time does not heal things. I don’t think healing will ever be complete but you learn to deal with it.”
Fulton, however, does believe that a breakthrough in the case could help Pike County move on.
“I really believe that if there were arrests and convictions it would bring closure for the family, and for the community,” he says.
But at this point, there’s no sign that closure will come anytime soon.