COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — State and local investigators trying to determine who's responsible for the slayings of eight people from a family said Thursday they didn't know until this week about a $10,000 reward being offered to help solve the case.
The reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction was approved by the Southern Ohio Crime Stoppers' board weeks after seven adults and a teenage boy from the Rhoden family were found dead at four homes near Piketon on April 22. A voicemail was left to notify the Pike County sheriff's office about the reward, but the information apparently got lost in the shuffle, said Ross County sheriff's Deputy Dave Weber, the Crime Stoppers liaison.
Acknowledging the Pike County sheriff's office was extremely busy, Weber said Thursday he's unsure where or how the chain of communication lapsed but what's important now is anyone with information about the case come forward.
Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader told The Columbus Dispatch he was shocked to learn about the reward this week and said he's optimistic it will help the investigation because offering money can help draw out lots of information.
Early in the investigation, Cincinnati-area businessman Jeff Ruby offered a $25,000 reward but withdrew it, citing "recent complex criminal developments" in the case.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has categorized the case as a top priority, possibly the biggest in the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation's history in terms of manpower and resources, but a spokeswoman said his office also wasn't aware of the reward offer.
Authorities have refused to discuss details about the investigation, including possible suspects or motives, saying they don't want to jeopardize the possibility of catching and convicting whoever is responsible. The discovery that three of the crime scenes had marijuana growing operations, which aren't uncommon in the area, fueled rumors the slayings were drug-related, but that's one of numerous theories that have circulated.
A coroner determined all but one of the victims had been shot repeatedly and some had bruising. A newborn, another baby and a young child were unharmed.
The victims were 40-year-old Christopher Rhoden Sr.; his ex-wife, 37-year-old Dana Rhoden; their three children, 20-year-old Clarence "Frankie" Rhoden, 16-year-old Christopher Rhoden Jr. and 19-year-old Hanna Rhoden; Frankie Rhoden's fiancee, 20-year-old Hannah Gilley; Christopher Rhoden Sr.'s brother, 44-year-old Kenneth Rhoden; and a cousin, 38-year-old Gary Rhoden.
Their immediate relatives haven't spoken much publicly, citing fears for their own safety. A message seeking comment about the reward was left with a victim advocate who has spoken on the family's behalf.
The Southern Ohio Crime Stoppers' board president said the panel approved a larger-than-usual reward in the case.
"It's such a big case, and so many lives were taken," said president Ernie Large, a retired Ross County deputy.
He said he's a little concerned about the reward having not been publicized and the group will try to do more to spread the word. The Crime Stoppers group accepts information from anonymous sources through a tip line, at 740-773-8477.
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