Marijuana found growing at several sites of Rhoden family massacre

Marijuana found growing at several sites of Rhoden family massacre
Law enforcement is still struggling to explain why eight members of one family were killed “execution-style” in four different locations in rural Pike County, Ohio. But drugs were found at three of the crime scenes.

Eight members of the Rhoden family were shot in the head “execution-style” on Friday, some of them while they were still in bed. Police believe the killer or killers are still on the loose. Three young children lived through the attacks, and surviving family members are on high alert.

Marijuana farm

Marijuana grow operations were found at three of the four crime scenes in Pike County, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine told reporters Sunday.

The sibling of one of the deceased told NBC News that he hadn’t heard anything about his brother’s involvement in a drug operation until Sunday.

"It doesn't make a difference," he said. "That doesn't change what happened."

DeWine did not say whether the operations were for personal or business use, nor did he make any connection between the Rhodens and a “major marijuana grow site with suspected ties to a Mexican drug cartel” that was discovered in Pike County in 2012, the Washington Post reported.

No suspect, no motive, big reward

"This was a pre-planned execution of eight individuals," DeWine said. "This is not your case where somebody's gotten mad at somebody else and shot them. There's a witness, two witnesses. It's a very, very different type case."

“Our goal is to do everything within our power in this investigation to find these people or this person who has done this. We will not be telling the bad guys everything that we know,” DeWine said. He later clarified that he did not mean “bad guys” to imply that there was more than one shooter.

"It was a sophisticated operation. And those who carried it out were trying to do everything that they could do to hinder the investigation and their prosecution," DeWine said.

Beyond the evidence found at the crime scenes, however, law enforcement is at a loss to explain the massacre.

“Well, you know, I think we can speculate what the motive was, we can talk about revenge, we can talk about how drug related, but frankly we just don’t know,” DeWine told the Today Show on Monday.

Cincinnati-area restaurateur Jeff Ruby announced a $25,000 reward  for information that leads to an arrest and conviction in the case.

911 calls

Law enforcement officials released audio from two 911 calls about the shootings.

At 7:49 a.m., a woman called police after she discovered the bodies of Chris Rhoden Sr. and Gary Rhoden. She was later identified as Bobby Manley by the Cincinnati Enquirer.

“I think my brother-in-law is dead,” she told the 911 dispatcher. “There’s blood all over the house. My brother-in-law is in the bedroom and it looks like someone has beat the hell out of him.”

“I think they are both dead,” Manley said.

A male called in from a second location at 1:26 p.m.

“I need a deputy to come out to close to 799 Left Fork. It’s all that stuff that’s on the news. I just found my cousin with a gunshot wound,” he said, identifying his cousin as Kenneth Rhoden.

When the dispatcher asked if his cousin was alive, he said: “No, no.”

“I just went in hollering at him, and checked if he was alright, and I looked up at him and he had a gunshot wound,” he added.

Family members

The deceased are: Hannah Gilley, 20 and her fiancé Clarence "Frankie" Rhoden, 20; Frankie’s father Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40, and mother Dana Rhoden, 37; their other children Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16, and Hanna Rhoden, 19; cousin Gary Rhoden, 38, and Kenneth Rhoden, 44. Christopher Sr. and Dana Rhoden were divorced, the Chillicothe Gazette reported.

Hanna Rhoden was killed in bed with her 4-day-old baby nearby, authorities said. Hannah and Frankie’s 6-month-old child and a 3-year-old whose parents were not identified were also unhurt during the killings.

“I thank God that they spared the children,” Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader said on the Today Show on Monday. “My only guess, and I’m completely speculating, is that they’re not witnesses.”

A victim’s advocate provided a statement on behalf of the surviving members of the Rhoden family.

"The Rhoden family would like to thank everyone for all the outpouring for prayers and support for their family," she read. "They ask that you continue to keep them in your prayers. They'd like to thank all law enforcement from Pike County and all surrounding counties for their immediate response, especially to Sheriff Charlie Reader for all his hard work."

Reader said he has spoken with surviving relatives.

“I cautioned them that they were a target and I told them to be armed,” Reader told reporters Sunday. “For the other citizens of this county, I don’t believe that there is an issue. I’ve taken the precautionary measures to contact other sheriffs.”

“If you are fearful, arm yourself,” he told Pike County residents. “If you feel you need to protect yourself or family, do so.”

For their part, the remaining Rhodens are frightened that they may be targeted too.

"It's scary... I mean you don't know what happened and I don't know why it would have happened," a member of the Rhoden family told WBNS, which concealed his identity for his safety.

"It's scary and [we've] been on high alert," he said. "It's what it feels like, you know what I mean? Because, you know... eight of them in my family..."

"I don't know how a person could do something like that," he said. "I think there was more than one [shooter]."

"It takes a cold-hearted person to do something like that and [I] hope they'll be brought to justice as soon as possible," he said.