Trailers where Rhoden family members were killed in Pike County moved for a second time

WAVERLY, Ohio -- For a second time since eight people were killed in Pike County 18 months ago, authorities moved the four trailers where the Rhoden family members were found shot to death.

Pike County officials moved the trailers Nov. 2 from the now-defunct Hadsell Chemical Processing LLC warehouse, at 9329 state Route 220 in Waverly, to a pole barn built inside the fenced Pike County Sheriff’s impound lot about 3 miles away, said Pike County Prosecutor Rob Junk. The impound lot is at 265 Progress Dr.

“The sheriff sent me a text at about 9 (p.m.) or so and said they were all moved,’’ Junk said in a text message Monday. “... As of now they are in the pole barn in the impound lot.”

Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader confirmed that officials moved the trailers.  He said staff took photos and video of the move for “chain of custody purposes” – in other words to show that there were no lapses in how the evidence was stored.

“Charlie (Reader) said they’d have a deputy watching them 24/7 until they get a video system in,” Junk said.

The Pike County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted on an emergency motion on Aug. 7. The motion allowed the county to spend $95,975 on the pole barn-style building.

Waverly-based RJK Fabrication & Construction, LLC received the no-bid contract. The motion was considered “emergency” because it was above the county’s standard $50,000 project limit and because of the pending bankruptcy and foreclosure against Hadsell Chemical.

According to the motion, if the bankruptcy and foreclosure went through, there could have been no place to securely store the mobile homes and camping trailers, resulting in compromising the crime scenes of the eight-person homicide case.

“The Board of Commissioners have also been advised by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office that it is imperative to maintain the integrity of these items as this investigation is still ongoing; and to continue to keep them in a secure fashion, or frankly, it makes all we have done this far for naught, certainly as it relates to these items,” according to the motion.

The storage of the trailers came under scrutiny in September 2016 when news photographs and video showed the warehouse’s back bay doors wide open with the trailers in plain view. Some questioned the security of the trailers, each of which are key pieces of evidence in the largest and most complex -- and still unsolved -- homicide investigation in Ohio history.

"I believe that we've protected it as well as we can,” Reader told the 9 On Your Side I-Team in October 2016. “We are having deputies do hourly checks on that parking lot. I myself do checks on that parking lot."

The move is also just the latest in what has become a costly process. So far, moving and storing the trailers for the investigation has cost taxpayers nearly $160,000.

MOVES UNPRECEDENTED

Last week’s move is yet another odd twist in the already bizarre case.

In an unprecedented move, investigators initially boarded up the three trailers and one camper and first towed them from Union Hill Road and Left Fork Road three weeks after members of the Rhoden family were found slain on April 22, 2016. At that time, Attorney General Mike DeWine said authorities took the trailers to preserve the crime scenes as evidence in a future trial.

Now, authorities have moved the trailers a second time.

Killed were: Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40; his ex-wife with whom he was reconciling, Dana Manley Rhoden, 37; their sons, Clarence "Frankie" Rhoden, 20, and Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16; and their daughter, Hanna Rhoden, 19; his brother Kenneth Rhoden, 44 and a cousin, Gary Rhoden, 38. Frankie Rhoden's fiancee Hannah Gilley, 20, was also killed.

Authorities have said the killings were well-planned and took place at night inside the trailers and the camper while many of the victims slept.

Neither DeWine nor Reader has offered a motive for the mass killing.

But this summer, investigators were “laser-focused” on members of the Wagner family who lived in Peebles at the time of the killings. Those individuals have since moved to Alaska.

Last week, Dan Tierney, spokesman for the attorney general’s office, said authorities are still focused on the Wagners. He declined to say why or if they have any evidence connecting them to the killings. The Rhoden and Wagner families knew each other.

Angela Wagner declined comment when contacted last week.

FORMER MOVE COSTS

Building the pole barn is just the latest cost for state and local taxpayers in the murder care.

Boarding the trailers and moving them and dozens of cars from the Rhoden family properties cost $110,692. Storing the trailers and camper at the warehouse costs an annual flat fee of $15,000. Bedbug treatment and a camera system totaled another $21,800. Receipts provided by the Pike County sheriff’s office last year outlined the costs.

Authorities released the cars to family members. The cars are now part of probate court proceedings, according to court documents.

Junk said the county paid electrical bills at the now-boarded up Hadsell warehouse after the company went bankrupt and the state seized the building in January. It has remained abandoned since January. According to the Pike County Auditor and the Pike County Board of Commissioners offices, the county paid AEP Ohio electric company a total of $12,380.83 between February and September for services at the Hadsell Chemical facility.

Many of the investigation’s costs are being picked up by the state.

According to the Pike County Auditor’s Office the state has, so far, reimbursed Pike County $139,071.94 for costs related to the Rhoden murder investigation.

Those payments were made in four installments:

February 2: $34,767.99

February 6: $34,767.99

March 15: Two for $34,767.98 each

CHARGES LEVELED AGAINST CHEMICAL COMPANY

In May 2017, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged Hadsell Chemical Processing, LLC and its former president Robert Walton Jr., of Loveland, with defrauding investors and failing to register $12 million in promissory note filings with the SEC. The complaint said the company and still owes investors more than $8 million.

From April 2012 through October 2015, according to the complaint, Hadsell and Walton told 65 investors the company had multimillion-dollar contracts and it was profitable. Neither was true. Walton created fake purchase orders and falsified financial statements that he provided to investors.

In addition, Walton “told investors that $1.2 million of their money would be used to buy part of a business selling topical ointments containing cannabis. Walton allegedly provided only approximately $300,000 to that business and did not receive any ownership of the business. He allegedly used the rest of the money -- $900,000 -- for other business expenses.”

Tony Rhoden, a brother, uncle and cousin to the victims, said he isn’t concerned with the trailers.

Rather he said wants to authorities to find his family’s killers.

“I’m sure they told probate (court) about it,’’ he said. “That’s just material stuff to me. The main thing to me is to find out who did this to my family.”

Anyone with information related to the case is asked to call Southern Ohio Crime Stoppers at 740-773-TIPS. Anonymous tips are still being taken at the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation at 855-BCI-OHIO (224-6446) or the Pike County Sheriff's Office at 740-947-2111. An $11,000 Crime Stoppers reward would be paid for any information that leads to apprehension of suspects and a conviction in the case.

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