Eight members of a family were killed at four different properties in a rural town in southern Ohio on Friday

All the victims were members of the Rhoden family and were shot in the head. It appeared some were killed as they slept. A four-day-old baby and two other small children were not hurt.

The motive for the slayings isn’t known, but the surviving members of the family have been urged to take precautions. The County Sheriff also recommended area residents to be extra wary.

The killings were “a sophisticated operation,” Attorney General Mike DeWine said at a news conference in the small community that has been on edge since seven adults and one teenage boy were found shot in the head.

Authorities remained tight-lipped on Sunday about details of the investigation, any suspects or motives for the crime.

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Family was targeted

Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader said that in his 20 years in law enforcement, he never interacted with the Rhoden family “in a criminal nature.” He said it was clear the family was targeted, however, and he’s told the victims’ relatives to arm themselves.

Authorities have been scrambling to determine who targeted the clan and why.

Authorities have been scrambling to determine who targeted the clan and why. Investigators have interviewed between 50 and 60 people in the hope of finding leads, and a team of 38 people is combing wooded areas around the shooting scenes to ensure no evidence was missed, authorities said.

DeWine said the state’s crime lab was looking at 18 pieces of evidence from a DNA and ballistic standpoint, and five search warrants have been executed. The autopsies are expected to be completed Monday.

Methodical, well planned

“This was very methodical. This was well planned. This was not something that just happened,” said Reader, noting that most victims were targeted while they were sleeping.

The victims were identified on Saturday as 40-year-old Christopher Rhoden Sr.; his 16-year-old son, Christopher Rhoden Jr.; 44-year-old Kenneth Rhoden; 38-year-old Gary Rhoden; 37-year-old Dana Rhoden; 20-year-old Clarence ‘Frankie’ Rhoden; 20-year-old Hannah Gilley; and 19-year-old Hanna Rhoden.

Four of those killed were youngsters, two of whom were teenagers.

The first three homes where bodies were found are within a couple of miles (about 3 km) on a sparsely-populated stretch of road, while the eighth victim, a man, was found in a house further away near Piketon, about 60 miles (97 km) south of Columbus.

Economically distressed Pike County, about 80 miles (128 km) east of Cincinnati on the western edge of Appalachia, has about 28 000 people, more than a quarter of whom live in poverty. The area is home to a shuttered Cold War-era uranium plant that’s still being cleaned up.

 

Photo: Chris Russell/The Columbus Dispatch via AP)
(Photo: Chris Russell/The Columbus Dispatch via AP)

Author: ANA Newswire