No clear motive leaves family members and community to question – Why? –
By Patricia Beech –
Every Sunday morning Leonard and Judy Manley leave their home and drive a short distance to the bluff where Union Hill Church sits overlooking the rolling hills of eastern Adams County.
Leonard is enduring the worst kind of pain a parent can experience – the loss of his daughter Dana, who was among the eight Rhoden family members brutally murdered one year ago in the largest homicide case in Ohio history.
They say time heals all wounds, but for Manley, it wasn’t time that began to heal the wounds shaped in his heart – it was the church and the people that offered him a measure of solace.
“Leonard says it’s the only thing that has really helped them to cope with what happened,” says Pastor Phil Fulton of the Union Hill Church. “People have really rallied around them, and knowing that people care, and that they love them and are praying for them – that means a whole lot to them.”
April 22 marks one year since Dana Manley Rhoden, 37, her former husband Christopher Rhoden, Sr., 40, and their three children: Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 20, Hanna Rhoden, 19, Chris Rhoden, Jr., 16 ; Christopher Rhoden’s elder brother, Kenneth, 44, and their cousin, Gary Rhoden, 38, were all found shot execution-style in their homes. Also killed was Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden’s fiancee, Hannah Hazel Gilley, 20.
One toddler and two infants survived the carnage. The brutal murders continue to haunt people in the Union Hill community.
“I’ve relived what happened a lot,” says Fulton. “Getting the call and going up there, then all at once, there it was, it’s been devastating. The community has dealt with it, but it stays in the back of your mind, and people still talk about it – the “whys” are still there.”
The case has yet to be solved, no arrests have been made and no clear motive established.
However, at an April 13 press conference Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said there has been significant progress in the investigation.”We will remain in Pike County until this case is solved,” DeWine told reporters. “We’re not going to stop until we’re done. This is not a cold case.”
Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader echoed DeWine’s determination.
“I got a message for the killers,” he said. “You came in like thieves in the night and stole eight lives, some of them children in the most horrific way I’ve seen in my 20 plus year career. We are getting closer. We will find you. The family and the victims will have justice one day.”
Despite the fact that the killer(s) remain at large, Fulton says he doesn’t believe the people in the Union Hill community are living in fear.
“I think most people have come to understand that the murders were directed only at that family,” he said. “The killers got in and they got who they were after.”
He does acknowledge the killings left deep scars in the broader communities of Adams and Pike Counties.
“We live in a rural area, and we’ve got a bad drug problem here, but when it comes to murder and things like that – we’ve never dealt with that – not at that magnitude,” he said. “It really changed our world as far as knowing something like that can happen here. It really changed our world forever.”
Anyone who may have information that could assist law enforcement in the investigation of the Rhoden family murders is urged to call either the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation at 1-855-BCI-OHIO (1-855-224-6446) or the Pike County Sheriff’s office at (740) 947-2111.