Pike County massacre: Rhoden family members shot in head at point-blank range, report shows

Number of wounds ranged from nine to one
Posted at 12:07 PM, Sep 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-19 18:51:47-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio — All of the Pike County massacre victims were shot in the head at point-blank range and seven of the eight were shot multiple times, according to preliminary autopsy reports viewed by the WCPO I-Team Wednesday.

All eight victims - seven Rhoden family members and one's fiancee - were shot with the gun barrel touching their skin or very, very close to it – just centimeters or inches away, the coroner determined.

The number of gunshot wounds ranged from nine (40-year-old Christopher Rhoden Sr. ) to one (44-year-old Kenneth Rhoden) for a total of 32.

A few inconsistencies in the mass killings were pointed out in the reports:

  • Although officials had said all the victims were shot in their sleep, the way his head was tilted indicates that Christopher Rhoden Sr. was shot through a door.  He also may have been shot first as his body was the most decomposed when it was discovered by the coroner's office.
  • Larger caliber bullets were used to kill 37-year-old Gary Rhoden.
  • Kenneth Rhoden was shot in his right eye only.

The number of gunshot wounds per victims, according to the reports:

  • Christopher Rhoden, Sr. (age 40):  Nine (face, torso, extremities).  
  • Dana Rhoden (age 37): Five (head).
  • Hannah Gilley (age 20): Five (head)
  • Christopher Rhoden, Jr. (age 16):  Four (head).
  • Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden (age 20): Three (head). Two were “contact wounds” as indicated by soot from the gun on his skull.
  • Gary Rhoden (age 37): Three  “contact” wounds (head).
  • Hanna Rhoden (19): Two (head).
  • Kenneth Rhoden (age 44): One (right eye).

Reporters began inspecting the single-page reports Wednesday following an Ohio Supreme Court decision allowing journalists to view the preliminary results. Reporters were not allowed to copy documents or photos or even take notes. 

The victims were found shot to death at four homes on the morning of April 22, 2016. Officials have said they believe the shootings took place hours earlier.

Christopher Rhoden Sr. and his ex-wife, Dana Rhoden were parents to Clarence "Frankie", Christopher Jr. and Hanna Rhoden;  Hannah Gilley was Frankie's fiancee, and Gary was a Rhoden cousin. Three children in the homes were found unharmed.

Authorities suspect there were multiple attackers who were familiar with the victims' homes and the surrounding area, about 70 miles south of Columbus.

No one has been charged or arrested in one of the state's most notorious crimes.

The office of Attorney General Mike DeWine has said Christopher Rhoden Sr. had "a large-scale marijuana growing operation," leading some to speculate the killings were drug-related.

The records were made available to the media at DeWine's Columbus office and at the Pike County prosecutor's office in Waverly.

The Ohio Supreme Court ordered the reports opened to the media following lawsuits by the Cincinnati Enquirer and Columbus Dispatch, ruling that Ohio law allows reporters to view preliminary autopsy and investigative notes and findings, and photographs.

If "a journalist submits a proper request to review preliminary autopsy and investigative notes and findings, suicide notes, or photographs of the decedent made by the coroner, the coroner 'shall' grant the request," the court said.

Heavily redacted versions of the reports were released in 2016.

"This is a case that is now over two years old, unsolved, and I think the investigators deserve to be scrutinized," said the Enquirer's lawyer, Jack Greiner, an expert in public records law.

The high court previously ruled against releasing the autopsies as public records. Wednesday's decision was decided under a different law that specifically regulates inspecting the records.