Slain Ohio Family Members May Have Struggled With Attacker: Coroner

"Soft-tissue bruising" indicates some of the victims may have struggled with an attacker, the coroner said

Seven of eight relatives slain in their southern Ohio homes were shot multiple times and some suffered bruising indicative of a struggle, according to autopsy results released Tuesday.

The victims — all members of the Rhoden family — appear to have been targeted. Authorities said the carefully planned slayings were carried out at four locations in the rural community of Piketon, east of Cincinnati.

Investigators uncovered marijuana growing operations at three of the crime scenes, according to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, who cautioned that it's still too early to speculate about a motive.

"We're not ruling anything in; we're not ruling anything out," DeWine said.

He said one of the victims received a threat on Facebook but declined to go into detail.

Authorities also found evidence "consistent with cockfighting" at one of the properties, where birds were kept in "small, segregated cages," according to Jill Del Greco, a spokeswoman for Wine's office.

"Whether or not cockfighting was actually happening, we don't know, but it is part of the investigation," Del Greco said.

The victims have been identified as 40-year-old Christopher Rhoden Sr.; his ex-wife, Dana Rhoden; their three children, 16-year-old Christopher Rhoden Jr., 19-year-old Hanna Rhoden and 20-year-old Clarence "Frankie" Rhoden; Christopher Rhoden Sr.'s brother, 44-year-old Kenneth Rhoden; their cousin, 38-year-old Gary Rhoden; and 20-year-old Hannah Gilley, whose 6-month old son with Frankie was unharmed. Two other children, a 6-month-old and a 3-year-old, were also spared. 

The Hamilton County coroner said Tuesday the victims — three women, four men and a 16-year-old boy — suffered wounds to their heads, torsos and other areas. 

According to the autopsy report, one victim suffered a single wound, another was wounded twice, and the rest had three or more wounds. The report didn't specify which victim was which. 

A woman who called 911 Friday morning reported finding "blood all over the house" and two bodies that appeared to have been badly beaten. The coroner said "soft-tissue bruising" on some of the bodies indicated a possible struggle.

Investigators have received more than 300 tips and are continuing to serve search warrants in an effort to identify the killer or killers, according to DeWine. He said 79 pieces of evidence have been sent to a state crime lab for testing and analysis. 

Dana Rhoden's father, 64-year-old Leonard Manley, said Monday his daughter was not involved in anything illegal.

"They are trying to drag my daughter through the mud, and I don't appreciate that," said Manley, whose three grandchildren — Dana's children — were also among the dead.

Manley also said the assailant was able to get by his daughter's two dogs, who were wary of strangers. 

"Whoever done it knows the family," Manley said. "There were two dogs there that would eat you up."

A Cincinnati-area businessman offered a $25,000 reward for details leading to those responsible.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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