Sheriff's office retracts report that SWAT team searched property for Pike County massacre suspects

Posted at 1:37 PM, May 12, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-14 01:24:24-04

PIKE COUNTY, Ohio --  A report that the Franklin County Sheriff’s SWAT team was searching for possible suspects in the Pike County massacre on Saturday was a false alarm, a spokesperson said.

Sheriff’s spokesperson Marc Gofstein said he made a mistake when he told media outlets that the SWAT team searched a property for possible suspects but did not find anyone.

Gofstein corrected himself to say the SWAT team was looking for evidence, not suspects. And he didn’t confirm if any evidence was found.

Officials didn't explain why the SWAT team didn't join the search of the Adams County property until the second day or why a SWAT team was needed for an evidence search, given that a SWAT team's role is to assist in personal high-risk situations.

Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader told WCPO no search is planned for Sunday. He said the operation, which started Friday, is concluded. Reader released this statement:

"We conducted an operation with BCI, Franklin County Sheriff's Office, the STARR team from ODRC, OSHP, the 23 Pipeline Major Crimes Task Force, and was assisted by Waverly Police Department and the Piketon Police Department. I will not comment on the particulars of the operation. I want to thank all the agencies for assisting in the operation today."

A search for suspects would have been a significant development in the year-old investigation into the murders of eight members of the Rhoden family, whose bodies were discovered in four homes on April 22, 2016. It would have indicated, for the first time, that officials had identified suspects or had reason to believe suspects were in the search area near the Adams-Pike county line - about 10 miles from where the bodies were found.

After Friday's search, Leonard Manley said he still wasn't optimistic about the chances of finding the person or persons who killed his daughter and seven of her family members.

"Maybe not in my lifetime unless they find something awful good down there," he said.

Dana Rhoden, Manley's daughter, was one of eight Rhoden family memberskilled. 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.

Authorities search an Adams County site.

Despite periodic reassurances of "significant progress" in the investigation, only a few pieces of information have surfaced in public view: Authorities believe the killer or killers must have been local, and the murders may have been connected to the Rhoden family's marijuana farms.

Friday's search continued into Saturday and covered a nearby business as well as a 72-acre farm just a few miles from the site of Dana Rhoden's death. DeWine remained tight-lipped Friday about the existence of a connection.

"There is a joint investigation going on between the Adams County Sheriff's Department, the Pike County Sheriff's Department and BCI," he said at a news conference. "That's really all I can tell you at this point."

Officials resumed their search of the two locations Saturday morning. The Franklin County SWAT team joined Saturday's search.

For Leonard Manley, it's dangerous to believe they might find something that could bring closure to the remaining members of his family. A year of fruitlessly longing for answers can grind down the hope of even the most determined person.

We asked him: How likely is it that police solve Dana's murder?

"From zero to 10, I say probably, maybe a one."