Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Investigators: Fear Holding Back Witnesses in Killings of 8

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Investigators: Fear Holding Back Witnesses in Killings of 8

Article excerpt

COLUMBUS, Ohio * Residents of a rural southern Ohio county are holding back information on the unsolved massacre of eight family members out of fear, authorities said Thursday as the anniversary of the crime approaches.

Some are worried about retaliation by the killers. Others fear incriminating themselves over their own criminal activity probably involving drugs unrelated to the slayings, investigators said at a news conference to update the public on the investigation.

"There is absolutely no doubt in my mind or in any investigator's mind that there's information that may be part truth, but not all the way true," Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader said.

Witnesses who come forward will be treated fairly, said Attorney General Mike DeWine, whose office is leading the investigation. The focus is on the homicide, not those individuals' crimes, he said.

On April 22, 2016, investigators found seven adults and a 16-year-old boy from the Rhoden family shot to death at four homes near Piketon. A newborn, another baby and a young child were unharmed.

One of the victims, Christopher Rhoden Sr., operated a commercial marijuana growing operation on his property "with the purpose of distributing the marijuana," according to DeWine's office.

Reader pleaded on Thursday for more donations to the reward fund, which has been stuck at $10,000 for several months, for information leading to a conviction.

The sheriff hinted that the victims' involvement in drug crimes might be holding people back from donating.

"These are human beings, regardless of what they did for a living, regardless if they live in rural Pike County," said Reader, who grew emotional at times talking about the "complete devastation" of the killings.

Both DeWine and Reader said they expected an arrest someday, with DeWine saying "significant progress" had been made and the case was still his office's top priority. DeWine expressed frustration that he couldn't make public all the information investigators have gathered.

"We are going to find you. We are going to arrest you. And justice will be done," DeWine said, addressing the killers.

Despite a massive investigation, no arrests have been made and no suspects identified. …

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