James Manley, brother of Pike County massacre victim, does not enter plea at arraignment hearing

Judge sets bond at $80K, next court date May 22

WAVERLY, Ohio -- The brother of a Rhoden family massacre victim will have a preliminary hearing next week on two felony counts tied to authorities' investigation of the case.

James Manley, 40, of Pike County, faces one count of tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony, and one count of vandalism, a fifth-degree felony.

Manley is accused of destroying a GPS device a state investigator secretly placed on his truck last month, according to court records. He was arrested Tuesday and booked into the Ross County Jail because Pike County doesn't have a jail. Authorities drove him from Chillicothe to the Pike County government building, about 13 miles away, for an arraignment hearing.

He did not enter a plea Wednesday. Judge Paul Price set Manley's bond at $80,000; he posted bail around 6:30 p.m. The case will go to a grand jury.

Manley's next court date is May 22.

He returned to jail Wednesday as his family worked to find $8,000, or 10 percent of his total bond amount, to free him.

Manley is the brother of Dana Rhoden, 37, who was killed in the massacre on April 22, 2016. Her teenage children, Hanna and Christopher Jr., were among the seven other victims found at four homes.

The massacre captured national news attention in the weeks after it happened but has yielded few answers since then. No one has been charged or arrested for the deaths.

 

After Wednesday's hearing, Manley's father told reporters his son had nothing to do with the killings. Leonard Manley said he feels police are targeting his family.

"They ain't gonna find no one that would say a bad word about my son or my daughter 'cause they were real close," Leonard Manley said.

Authorities consider James Manley a witness in the murders, and for some reason investigators wanted to keep track of him. So Maj. Alan L. Lewis of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations secretly put a GPS device on the frame of Manley's truck on April 22. It stopped operating April 28, according to a request for an arrest warrant signed by Lewis.

 

The charges Manley faces are not uncommon when a witness destroys such a device used in a government investigation, according to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine's office.

Manley's father and wife told BCI agents Monday that Manley found the GPS and smashed it on the sidewalk. Lewis said he and two other agents went to Manley's home on Monday to "give notice of the court order concerning the GPS unit." That's when Manley's father, Leonard Manley, shouted at the agents from the driveway, he said.

James Manley's booking photo

He "yelled something to the effect of, 'You b-------, that thing's not on the truck,'" Lewis said.

According to Lewis, Manley's father continued to talk about his son destroying the device.

The GPS was worth $315, the agent said.

Leonard Manley told WCPO he has no idea where the GPS device is, and he claimed his son did nothing wrong.

Martin Pinales, a WCPO legal expert, said the charges may depend on how badly Manley damaged the device, if at all.

"If I found a piece of equipment on my car that didn't belong, I would take it off as well," Pinales said. "You can't destroy it. You can't put it on the neighbor's car and have the police follow the wrong car around. But certainly, I don't think it is an obstruction."

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