“Do you think they’re both dead?” the dispatcher asked.
“I think they’re both dead,” said the woman, later identified as Bobby Manley by the Cincinnati Enquirer. “It looks like someone has beat the hell out of them.”
The men had been shot in the head, execution-style.
The call ends with Manley’s painful wails as she waits outside the home for authorities to arrive. Six more bodies would be found by the day’s end, all members of the Rhoden family of Pike County, ranging in age from 16 to 44, shot dead inside four different homes not far apart.
Since the bloodshed Friday, local and state law enforcement officers have swarmed the community, interviewing more than 50 people and combing the wooded areas surrounding the crime scenes. Sheriff Charles Reader called the investigation one of the largest in Pike County history. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said the massacre was “pre-planned” and “sophisticated.” A wealthy Ohio businessman offered a $25,000 reward to anyone with answers.
Yet there are few.
Officials have been tight-lipped about many of the details surrounding the case, including why the family was targeted and who may have fired the bullets.
At a news conference Sunday, investigators revealed some new information, but they were reluctant to tie it to a motive; several marijuana-growing operations were found at the crime scenes, according to the Associated Press.
DeWine did not say if the “operations” were for personal use or business.
A different “major marijuana grow site with suspected ties to a Mexican drug cartel” was discovered in Pike County four years ago, according to a 2012 news release from the attorney general’s office. Authorities have made no connections between this grow site and the “operations.”
The victims were identified 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.
Most were shot in their sleep, authorities said. Hanna Rhoden’s newborn baby, less than a week old, was found near her mother’s body, the AP reported. The newborn, along with Hannah Gilley’s 6-month-old baby and another small child, were unhurt, reports said.
Three of the trailer homes were in close proximity. It was at a fourth location, about a 10-minute drive away, that a different family member found the eighth body.
“It’s all this stuff that’s on the news, I just found my cousin with a gunshot wound,” the man told a 911 dispatcher.
“Sir, is he alive?”
“No, no,” the man said, identifying the victim as Kenneth Rhoden.
Autopsies for all eight bodies were performed throughout the weekend at the Hamilton County coroner’s office, according to a news release from the attorney general’s office.
“Eighteen pieces of evidence are now at the state crime lab,” DeWine said Sunday. “It was a sophisticated operation, and those who carried it out we’re trying to do everything that they could do to hinder the investigation and their prosecution. … We would anticipate that this could be a lengthy investigation.”
That same day, 48 hours since the first body was found, community members gathered just down the road from the crime scenes to worship at Union Hill Church. The Rev. Phil Fulton told his congregation to turn to prayer, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported, and admitted he had no answers.
“A mother holding her baby in her arms, who would do that?” he said. “Only evil would do that.”
Early in the weekend, officials were investigating whether the shooter or shooters could have been among the dead, but cautioned that scenario was unlikely.
Authorities have urged anyone with information to call the offices of the sheriff and attorney general.
“There is a family that lost eight members,” Sheriff Reader said Sunday. “This was not something that just happened.”