Charges against brother of Pike County victim will go to grand jury

James Manley accused of tampering with evidence
Posted at 11:57 AM, May 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-22 17:48:01-04

WAVERLY, Ohio  -- A grand jury will consider charges against the brother of the slain Rhoden family matriarch.

James Manley, 40, is accused of interfering with the death investigation of eight relatives in Pike County.

Manley is charged with one count of tampering with evidence and one count of vandalism. During a hearing Monday, a Pike County judge dismissed the charges from municipal court so a grand jury can consider them for direct indictment in common pleas court. Officials described this as standard practice for felony charges in Pike County.

Pike County Prosecutor Rob Junk said the dismissal means they don't have to put an investigator on the stand, where the agent would have faced cross examination by the defense.

"That's not something we were willing to do today," Junk said.

Manley is accused of destroying a GPS device a state investigator placed on his vehicle last month, according to court records.

His defense attorney objected to the request to drop the charges, telling the judge Manley has a right to know what evidence exists against him. Family members declined to comment after the hearing.

The GPS and charges against Manley are tied to the Rhoden massacre case. He is the brother of Dana Rhoden, 37, who was killed in the massacre on April 22, 2016. Killed alongside Dana were her children Hanna Rhoden, Chris Rhoden Jr., Frankie Rhoden, Frankie's fiancée Hannah Gilley, Dana's ex-husband Christopher Rhoden Sr., his brother Gary Rhoden and cousin Kenneth Rhoden.

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.

Authorities consider Manley a witness in the murders, but not a suspect. Major 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 prosecutor is determined to take Manley to court again over the destroyed GPS tracker.

"This case isn't going away," he said.

A Pike County grand jury will next meet Thursday. Junk didn't say if his office will present Manley's case then or next month.