I first heard about the Rhoden execution-style homicides in Piketon, Ohio, last Friday afternoon (April 23rd), while watching primary coverage on MSNBC. I’ve avoided crime reporting for about 3 years now (that’s another story), yet the disturbing Rhoden case had a way of catapulting me out of retirement, as I watched Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine characterize the vicious crimes and massive investigation, during a live news conference. I let these seismic ruptures sink in for 24 hours or so, then I got back in gear, ransacking the internet furiously, in pursuit of any and all reliable news sources I could get my hands on!
It felt good to be back in the saddle, but an awful feeling came over me, as I studied the brief, yet mounting file on the victims, or a handful of clues that would answer the question why eight members of the Rhoden family were shot to death (likely while they slept) in four different locations, very early on Friday, April 23rd. (the exact times of the murders have not been disclosed, thus far). Although I’m yet a bit rusty, one assessment is vastly evident: these murders were carefully planned out, and then the follow up, they were actually carried out with extraordinary exactitude!
One unexplained detail of the crimes, as reported in the NY Daily News (Father of one of eight Ohio...) supports the methodical, premeditated nature of these cold-blooded killings; this is the fact that the pet dogs (some were pit bulls even!) were spared. It was Dana Rhoden’s father, Leonard Marley, who pointed out this paradoxical clue when interviewed by The Cincinnati Enquirer. Did the killers know the Rhodens well? Were they even familiar with their pet dogs? Why didn’t the dogs bark up a storm, or perhaps even attack the killer(s)?
I will, at least, list the victims’ names and ages, along with their lineage or connection to the Rhoden family. Thus far, the published biographical information available for the Rhodens is, at best, sketchy (although, the rumor mill grinds large); however, I would recommend you take a look at a well-researched piece on the Dayton Daily News site, Pike County shooting victims: A closer look at the 8 who died, by Will Garber, staff writer.
Eight killed: Hannah Gilley, 20, (engaged to Frankie); Frankie Rhoden, 20, (son of Dana and Christopher, Sr. – known to race his car down Union Hill Road!); Christopher Don Rhoden, Jr., 16, (son of Dana and Christopher Sr.); Hanna May Rhoden, 19, (daughter of Dana and Christopher Sr.); Dana Lynn Manley Rhoden, 37, (mother of 3 other victims and ex-wife of Christopher Sr., also a victim); Christopher Don Rhoden Sr., 40 (was the father the primary target?); Gary Dwayne Rhoden, 38 (a cousin to Christopher Sr. – from Kentucky); and last Kenneth Wayne Rhoden, 44, (older brother of Christopher Sr.).
Frankie’s Ford Crown Victoria
While bios of the Rhodens remain amorphous, possibly sending their ‘true identities’ to a murky zone of anonymity (more substance will surely come out), two clues uncorked are ample cause for examination. First, Frankie Rhoden had this very classy 1990s model Ford Crown Victoria, said to be worth $3,000; Frankie would race his car and win handily in local demolition derby contests, unleashing raging jealousy amongst his competitors. Somebody gets real mad and snuffs out nearly an entire clan over a trifle? My own take on this theory, is, this car envy would not be sufficient motive, requiring the application of such drastic measures; no, not good enough.
A second dispute (there may be many more), already investigated by the police, was a threat posted on Facebook by Rusty Mongold on April 12th: “God I can’t stop thinking of the kid that hit me with his car…we will get them all of them.” *(Violent End in Ohio Massacre, The Daily Beast – This article documents the Gorman-Rhoden feud also). A closer look at the Rhodens unveils a less than squeaky-clean record! Then we have the newly uncovered marijuana growing operation to consider.
Marijuana Growing Operation
The authorities found three marijuana growing operations, that were described as sophisticated and commercial in nature; ie a big sale business! One location was an indoor set-up with several hundred plants. Did the Rhodens work alone, or did they have confederates (turning hostile)? Were they Mexican Nationals, affiliated with one of the big cartels? Was this consummate take-out a turf war vendetta?
This angle, as far as a reasonable motive goes, is the best one anybody (police, public, or otherwise) can come up with, thus far in the investigation. This plausible theory is even strengthened when you couple it with the marijuana discoveries of 2010 (found 2,300 plants) and in 2012 (found 1,239 plants). When you add in encampments found nearby, of growers faring from Mexico, then don’t blame yourself if your imagination goes even more berserk! (The Columbus Dispatch)