Rhoden Family Murders

I have been following the Pike County, Ohio case because it is local and the “hillbilly” family dynamics is interesting.  I use the term hillbilly not as an insult but to describe the way of life.  I, myself, am a “hillbilly”.  I grew up in southern West Virginia and can relate to the small town atmosphere and cultural mores.  My life in rural Appalachia was rough.  I know poverty firsthand and what it means to be thankful for what you have.  When I see interviews with the locals from Pike County, I can relate to them.  I was one of them once.  You can take the girl out of the holler, but you can’t take the holler out of the girl.

I grew up on Backus Mountain in Meadow Bridge, West Virginia; population less than 400.  We lived in a 5-room shanty called a Ginny Ann that had no running water inside, nor an indoor bathroom.  Ginny Ann refers to the design which was nothing more than a wooden frame with roofing paper used as siding.  There were two bedrooms, a living room, dining room and kitchen.  We had an outhouse up on a hill about 100 yards on the edge of the woods.  If we needed water, we drew it from the well in the backyard in an elongated tube where it was then transferred into a bucket with a ladle/dipper to get a drink from.

We had chickens.  We grew our own vegetables, and we hunted.  We had coon dogs who were trained to assist in hunting game.  People in the area cherished their hunting dogs and sometimes some unsavory folks would steal others’ hunting dogs.  Families feuded and outsiders were looked at with suspicion.  We knew about hillbilly justice and which families had no problem exacting it against their enemies or those they felt had wronged them.  Hillbillies are proud people, and your family name means something.

The road to Grandma’s house, Backus Mtn.

We were very poor.  Poor enough that purchasing new shoes for school was accomplished by mossing or picking ginseng to sell.  We, my two brothers and sister, would take burlap sacks into the woods and pull moss from downed trees, put it into 50-pound sacks and drag them out of the woods  to home where it would then be hung on the fence to dry.  Once it dried, it was sold to a local florist who sold to a company to use in flower arrangements.  The amount earned per pound was minuscule, something like $5 or so.  It took a lot of mossing to make any money.  It was hard work for four kids to drag out heavy, wet moss sometimes for a mile or so out of the woods, and then hang it to dry before it could be sold. We were more appreciative of material things for having worked hard just to put shoes on our feet.

I can relate to the people of Pike County, not only on an empathetic level, but a personal level as I know from living it what country life is about.  It’s rough, but you make the best of it, and you learn to survive and be proud of what you have.  We didn’t have everything we wanted, but we had what we needed to survive.  I feel like the Rhodens were the same way.  They didn’t have a lot, but they existed on what they had and family was very important to them.

The Rhoden case is chock full of hillbilly history, and that is not necessarily a bad thing, but I feel as though there are some out there who are unfairly focusing on them being “hillbillies” rather than the fact that 8 family members were massacred and there is/are killer(s) on the loose.  It is also irresponsible for the media to focus on the Facebook threats that were posted prior to the murders.  The young men in question went immediately to law enforcement to clear their names and have cooperated with investigators.  I’m not excusing their behavior for the threats made, but for media to continue to use salacious headlines regarding the Facebook threats to get web hits is just wrong.

What we know:
Eight people were killed “execution style” in five separate crime scenes in rural Ohio according to law enforcement and Attorney General Mike DeWine.  The names and dates of birth for the eight victims killed in execution-style murders in Pike County, Ohio Friday have been released.  The names are as follows:

Hannah Gilley, DOB 02/28/1996
• Christopher Rhoden, Sr., DOB 09/17/1975
Christopher Rhoden, Jr., DOB 11/04/1999
Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, DOB 08/10/1995
Dana Rhoden, DOB 08/29/1978
• Gary Rhoden, DOB 12/19/1977
Hanna Rhoden, DOB 04/07/1997
• Kenneth Rhoden, DOB 03/30/1972

Coroner Reports that

  • One victim suffered 1 gunshot wound
  • One victim suffered 2 gunshot wounds
  • Two victims suffered 3 gunshot wounds
  • One victim suffered 4 gunshot wounds
  • Two victims suffered 5 gunshot wounds
  •   One victim suffered 9 gunshot wounds

Timeline provided by JaimeInLA from Websleuths:  (source here)

  • 2 days prior to murders: Woman involved in road rage incident with Chris Jr is in court and is sentenced
  • 8am Thursday: Dana arrives at work. She was an hour late. Find out she has to work an unexpected double shift.
  • 11pm Thursday: Dana leaves work – Hillcrest Nursing Home – 14 miles away per CNN
  • Approx 11:20pm: Dana arrives home
  • Sometime between 4am and 7am: All 8 victims are murdered (except possibly Kenneth)
  • Bodies found at 3122 UHR: Dana, Hanna Rhoden, Chris Rhoden Jr.
  • Bodies found at 4077 UHR: Chris Sr. and Gary (3 GSW to head)
  • Bodies found at 4199 URH: Frankie and Hannah Hazel Gilley
  • Body found near 799 LFR: Kenneth Rhoden (1 GSW to head)
  • 7:00 am Friday: Bobby Jo arrives at Chris Sr.’s house. She tells LE she arrived alone.
  • 7:49 am Friday: Bobby Jo calls 911 to report Chris and Gary’s bodies
  • 7:53 am — PCSO Dep. Music and Dep. Chandler are dispatched to 4077 Union Hill Road in response to the 7:49 911 call.
  • 8:07 am — Dep. Chandler arrived “at a neighboring residence” (Frankie’s?) where he was flagged down by a subject. Dep. Chandler advised that he needed “multiple ambulances due to multiple down at multiple residences.”
  • 8:12 am — Dep. Music, Dep. Ball, and Maj. Evans all arrived “on scene” where they were approached by [Redacted] who stated: “there are two more dead people here.” [Redacted] pointed to the residence at 4077 Union Hill.
  • 8:21 am –PCSO request for assistance sent to BCI (Source: CNN)
  • 12:13 pm — at least 4 BCI Crime Scene Unit trucks are seen at the intersection of Hwy 32 and Union Hill Road headed towards the crime scenes. (Source: tweet including a photo made by Gannett Ohio reporter @saranealeigh)
  • 1:26 pm Friday: Donald Stone calls 911 to report Kenneth’s body
  • 1:36 pm — Ohio AG Mike DeWine issues a press release: 7 people murdered in “execution-style killings”
  • 3:41 am Saturday: Police arrive at Bobby Jo’s residence and aggressively question her and 5 others

 

What we don’t know:

Who killed the Rhoden family and Hannah Gilley and why.

Gary Rhoden’s father, Kenneth Rhoden, recently spoke with media about his son.  He reminds me of any older man I might talk to from Backus Mountain.  He’s soft spoken and speaks with a southern drawl about his boy.  I feel for this man and his family.  Two generations of their family were wiped out in one night, and today it seems we aren’t any closer to knowing who did this than we were a week ago. There are more questions than there are answers, and even if there were marijuana grow operations on the properties, it does not excuse the fact that someone, somewhere is getting away with cold blooded murder.

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6 Comments

  1. alice

    Prinnie, I also can and do relate to these ppl.Those people remind me of life. A life I am all too familiar with. I also grew up in conditions with far less than the average.That didn’t make us ignorant or any less a person, than someone with money.However, by reading some of the post. It seems some believe other wise.The only difference between me and any of those victims… my name. I have overcame many of the hardships of poor living.These are good people and I am sure the victims were good people.I hate how the media(and others) made statements that caused even more pain for the survivors.Until we have walked in another’s shoes, we have no right to judge someone.It’s bad enough that these ppl were taken in such a horrific way, but to smear their names in death, is also a tragic event.
    Dana and her daughter both had got their CNA license to work in a resthome.I think they were learning the importance of education and how badly it was needed to overcome many hardships in life. It seems they were doing good, better than many in that region. Hope those who done this are caught very soon.

    Reply
    1. prinnie (Post author)

      I hope they find those who did this, too but I’m starting to feel like this one could go cold. I grew up very poor, and it just bothered me that the media started to stray away from the murder to their living conditions and culture. That doesn’t change the fact that there is a murderer(s) on the loose. Now that there is no new information, I see that they are rehashing cultural conversations and trying to make the filing of probate matters seem salacious.

      Reply
  2. Ken Terry

    Prinnie. Great story! you truly have the flavor of someone with a hillbilly background down to a tee.I come from this background as well and have seen the justice first hand on several occasions in growing up. The first time I read of the Rhoden murders and of the details I assumed this to be a local issue. Everyone seems to be of the opinion that this was a professional hit of some sort with the multiple gunshots and all but according to some of the information I have come across it was said the shell casings were that of a 22 and a 38. These are not powerful guns and it would take several shots to kill a person and they would have to be head shots, a friend was shot in the chest with a 38 and drove himself to the hospital. A professional hit would have involved a large caliber weapon, guns are like tools, a professional uses the right one. I have seen some flat out dumb luck crime ventures executed in textbook fashion, looking like professionals had pulled it off but was really only dumb luck by a couple of drunk hillbilly’s. I think that is the case here, someone was left out and took out the inner circle to stop any speculation or direct knowledge of the crime, he knew the dogs, knew where the surveillance recorder was and was just lucky to pull the crime off in an area where they are a little short in training in forensic investigation. Due to the Marijuana operation everyone assumes it was drug related and have lost sight of thinking outside of the box. I would bet the shooter is still right there in town waiting for his dumb luck to run out.

    Reply
    1. prinnie (Post author)

      There are a lot of rumors about one of the surviving brothers and the father of child and ex of Hannah. His father owns a biohazard cleaning service. I don’t think it was cartel either, because if it was low powered weapons a hitman isn’t going to use that. Plus, this seemed personal where some were shot multiple times in the head and extremities – like whoever shot them wanted them to suffer first. This case has me intrigued though for sure. They moved the trailers to an evidence warehouse. Never seen that happen before.

      Thanks for the compliment! You can take the girl outta the hills, but ya can’t take the hills outta the girl. 😉

      Reply
  3. Joe

    Retired Detective Joe Kenda said it best: “People are simple and murder is simple. There only three motives for murder; sex, money and revenge.” I’ll add it could be any combination of the three but there you go. I think sex can probably be ruled out. Although I think money was part of it it seems to me revenge is the most likely motive. Revenge for what? You find that answer and you find the killers!

    Reply
    1. prinnie (Post author)

      I have read a lot on Topix, and while that’s probably the crapper of message forums on the internet, there is some interesting information and gossip on there. I agree this was revenge and probably by someone very well known and familiar to them and their dogs.

      Reply

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