Pike County Sheriff Warns Surviving Rhoden Family Members, Community To Arm Themselves After Massacre

The Pike County sheriff said that the manhunt is still underway in connection with the Pike County massacre, in which several members of the Rhoden family and another woman, who was engaged to one of the Rhodens, were all killed execution style in the middle of the night last week. The sheriff has warned the family and anyone fearful for their own safety to arm themselves.

Law enforcement has confirmed that about 200 marijuana plants, capable of producing about $2,000 worth of marijuana per plant, were found in an indoor grow operation belonging to the Rhoden family. Still, investigators aren’t sure that the murders were connected to the grow operation.

Investigators are looking at multiple different possible motives for the massacre, including a possible connection to a Mexican drug cartel, a drug turf war, or even a family feud, CBS reported. The shootings occurred in four different locations near Piketon, Ohio. In all, seven adults and one teenage boy was found shot in the head in the Pike County massacre.

Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader told reporters that most of the massacre victims were sleeping when they were killed. He has warned surviving members of the Rhoden family in Pike County to take extra safety precautions and arm themselves.

“I cautioned them, told them we will be there,” Sheriff Reader told CBS. “I told (them) to be armed.”

One surviving family member, who asked not to be named said the family was torn up, but also fearful for their own lives.

“There’s still killers on the loose, or killer,” he said.

In Piketon, residents say that everyone is on edge and scared. Since no one knows the motive for the murders, no one knows what the killer or killers are capable of or who they may target next, they say.

The victims were identified Saturday as Christopher Rhoden Sr. (40), his son Christopher Rhoden Jr. (16), Kenneth Rhoden (44), Gary Rhoden (38), Dana Rhoden (37), Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden (20), Hannah Gilley (20), and Hanna Rhoden (19). Hanna Rhoden appeared to have been sleeping in her bed with her newborn baby in the room. The infant, less than a week old at the time, was not harmed. Also not harmed, but present during the murders were Hannah Gilley’s 6-month-old infant, and one other small child.

All of the residences were either within walking distance or a short drive away from each other in an area not far from a rural highway.

A couple of days after the massacre, a surviving Rhoden family member called 911 and told the operator, “I fear for my life.” He called 911 after leaving a Speedway gas station, because he suspected he was being followed. He said that at least two people were in what he thought was a forest green, newer model Chrysler. He feared that the driver of the forest green vehicle had been following him for nearly 10 miles and tried to cut him off.

“I don’t know who he is,” Rhoden told the 911 operator, according to WCPO News. “I don’t know what his problem is.”

Piketon police officers, Pike County Sheriff’s deputies, Franklin County deputies and officers from other nearby police stations have been extra vigilant while investigators continue to search for answers, 10 TV reported.

“If you are fearful, arm yourself. If you feel you need to protect yourself or your family, do so,” Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader suggested.

“My initial reaction is that the statement is a projection of fear and a reinforcement,” Portsmouth council member Johnson said of the Pike County Sheriff’s suggestion that people arm themselves. “I regret that he felt the need to say something like that given everything that has been released to the public about the crime. Were I in his shoes, I would not have tried to exacerbate the fear that exists in the community. In fact, I would have done the opposite and done everything I could to tamp it down.”

Do you think the Pike County sheriff gave good advice, or do you believe it was unwarranted advice that only served to exacerbate fear within the community like the council member claims?

[Photo by John Minchillo/AP Images]