Eight dead in ‘execution-style’ killings in rural Ohio

The scene in Pike County, Ohio, while they investigate a shooting with multiple fatalities. Picture: AP
The scene in Pike County, Ohio, while they investigate a shooting with multiple fatalities. Picture: AP

Police have urged people in southern Ohio to be on their guard as the search continues for whoever fatally shot eight members of a family – including a mother in bed next to her four-day-old baby – at four properties,

More than 30 people have already been interviewed in connection with the murders of seven adults and a 16-year-old boy whose bodies were found on Friday in homes near the village of Piketon. Police deny that they have any leads.

All the victims were shot in the head, and some may have been killed as they slept. The four-day-old baby and two other small children were not hurt.

The victims’ full names have not yet been released, but police said they are all members of the Rhoden family. None of the deaths appears to have been self-inflicted, and police believe at least one assailant is at large.

No motive for the murders is yet known, but police have urged surviving members of the Rhoden family to take precautions. Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader called on local residents to be extra-wary. He added that the police had met more than 100 relatives and friends of the Rhoden family at a church.

“This really is a question of public safety, and particularly for any of the Rhoden family,” Attorney General Mike DeWine said.

The first three homes where bodies were found are within a couple miles on a sparsely populated stretch of road, while the eighth body was found in a house further away.

No information was released on what kind or how many weapons might have been used or whether anything was missing from the homes.

State governor John Kasich, campaigning in Connecticut for his Republican presidential bid, said his office was monitoring the situation in Pike County and the search for the killer or killers.

“We’ll find them, we’ll catch them and they’ll be brought to justice,” he said.

The FBI in Cincinnati also said it was closely monitoring the situation and has offered assistance if needed.

Pike County, a poor part of Ohio about 80 miles east of Cincinnati on the western edge of Appalachia, is home to about 28,000 people, more than a quarter of whom live in poverty. It is also the location of a shuttered Cold War-era uranium plant – one of only three such plants in the entire US – which is still being cleaned up. In Piketon, some 30 per cent of the village’s 2,181 residents live below the poverty line.

“It’s heartbreaking,” DeWine said. “The one mom was killed in her bed with the four-day-old right there.”

Agents with the Ohio Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation are leading the investigation at the request of Pike County Sheriff’s Office. Numerous other law enforcement agencies from nearby counties have also offered support.

“This is a devastating time for the family,” Sheriff Reader said at a news conference on Friday, noting how much the crime had shocked the rural community.

“We’ve never had a shooting with eight victims,” he said. “We’ll find who did this.”

Peebles High School near Piketon closed for a few hours as a precaution on Friday morning after authorities notified the its superintendent about the shootings, acccording to Regina Bennington, secretary to the superintendent for the Adams County Ohio Valley Schools district.

The school was back to normal operations later on Friday morning.