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S1 / EP07: The Pike County Murders: Part 1

Updated: Dec 6, 2022

I'm starting to think there's something in the water in rural Ohio! When this case hit the news, I immediately assumed this was a drug deal gone bad. It had all the markings of that type of crime - eight people from the same family murdered, children spared, and marijuana plants on the premises. It all seemed to fit, except when the suspects were named and arrested. I've followed this case since the onset, and although it appears the suspects will not go to trial until possibly 2021 now due to Covid19 delays, I'm looking forward to hearing about the evidence obtained and what could have been the reasons that caused an entire family to be executed.


Transcribed EP07: The Pike County Murders (Part 1)


Content on this podcast may contain elements that are not suitable for some listeners. listener discretion is advised.


Welcome to Episode Seven of the crime shack. This episode is going to be a multi part episode because there is so much information in this particular case. This could be a serial podcast on its own as it's that crazy and convoluted. Be sure to head over to the crime shack comm for all available episodes and show notes. And also like and subscribe to us on your favorite podcast app. On April 21, and 22nd of 2016. Eight people, members of the Rhoden and Gilley families were murdered, presumably in the middle of the night or early morning in Pike County, Ohio. The Rhoden and Gilly families were a close knit group who would raise fighting roosters breed dogs and salvage cars for sales. They would often participate in local community pastimes like demolition derby and for wheeling, the county where the Rhoden and Gilly families lived was Pike County, Ohio, which is situated in the southern portion of Ohio. It includes small town communities and the population in 2010 in the entire county was around 29,000 people. That was 10 years ago. Of course, I'm sure it has an increased population today. Pike County lives in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains is about 80 miles east of Cincinnati, and is best known for the uranium enrichment plant located in the town of Piketon, which is one of only three such plants in the United States. If you pull up a Google satellite map of Pike County, Ohio, this will give you a pretty clear picture of just how rural this community is. Lots of land with small houses sprinkled throughout. Piketon county is surrounded by pike Lake State Park, pike Lake State Forest and the scioto trails. State Forest, which provides the residents with thousands of acres of forest lands to go hiking, fishing, biking, camping and hunting. for being such a small community. Pike County does its best to include festivals and fairs for families to enjoy throughout the year. The Pike County Fair usually runs in July in August, and the pike county dogwood Festival, which celebrates the legend of the dogwood tree is usually held in April. Pike County is one of those tight knit communities where just about everyone knows each other. And the victims in this case were no exception. They were a large well known family within the community. As most of the general public, I first heard about this case on the news at the time it happened and I remember thinking wow, eight people murdered who could possibly have planned to do something like that, except some kind of gang organized crime syndicate. What would be a compelling reason to murder me multiple people, let alone an entire family in the middle of rural Ohio. The eight victims were all in some way related to one another. They were not all living in the same home at the time of the murders, but were spread out among four different properties in the towns of Piketon and neighboring garden, Ohio. Seven of the victims were killed in three separate trailers on the same rural property, and the eighth victim occupied a separate trailer about six miles away. Most of the victims appeared to have been sleeping at the time they were shot. The victims were Christopher Roden, senior, 40 years old. Dana Lynn Roden, 37 years old, who was the ex wife of Christopher Rhoden senior Christopher Rhoden, Jr. 16 years old, who was the youngest son of Dana and Christopher Roden senior, Hannah may wrote in 19 years old, who was the daughter of Dana Christopher Rhoden Clarence Frankie wrote in 20 years old, who is the oldest son of Dana and Christopher Rhoden? Hannah Hazel Gilley, 20 years old, who was the fiance of Frankie Roden. KENNETH wrote in 44 years old, who was the brother of Christopher Rhoden senior. And Gary Rhoden. 38 years old, who was the cousin of Chris Rhoden senior and Kenneth wrote in. On April 22, two nine woman calls were placed from the properties of the victims. The first nine one call was made at 7:49am. by Bobby Joe Manley, the younger sister to Dana Roden. Bobby would stop by her sister and former brother in law's property on union Hill Road and piped in each morning to feed their dogs and chickens. When Bobby arrived on the property, she first attempted to enter the home of Christopher Roden senior and Gary Roden, Chris's cousin, who also won lived in the home. But notice that the door was locked. She had a key so she let herself in, which is interesting to note because whoever had committed the murders had made sure to lock the doors on their way out. That's when Bobby discovered both Christopher Sr. and Gary Rhoden lying on the floor, dead in the back bedrooms. She explains to the 911 operator that there is blood all over the house. And it appears that in her words, someone beat the crap out of them. She is understandably distraught and out of breath during the 911 call.

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7070 4077 Okay,

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email crack

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going on

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the house. Okay my brother

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Unknown Speaker 6:32

hi Kaylee

Unknown Speaker 6:37

Okay, okay.

Unknown Speaker 6:41

You drive over

Unknown Speaker 6:45

me. What's your brother in law thing? Yeah

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run his finger taking care

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Unknown Speaker 7:02

that I think you're

Unknown Speaker 7:05

okay, you're not okay.

Unknown Speaker 7:13

Right here but I have been

Unknown Speaker 7:17

laying on the floor

Unknown Speaker 7:20

Okay, just stay out of the house don't want anybody going there okay. Yeah. All right without that getting over my Okay, I thank you.

Unknown Speaker 7:36

short while later before police arrived at the union Hill residents following the 911 call, Bobby Joe entered the second separate home on union Hill Road and discovered Frankie Roden and Hannah Gilly both dead in their bed. Frankie and Hannah's six month old child lay between them unharmed. Their four year old son who had been sleeping on the sofa In the residents in a separate room, was also unharmed. Bobby Joe's brother James Manley then arrived and went to check in on the third residence on the union Hill Road property and discovered the dead bodies of his sister Dana, her son Christopher, and her daughter, Hannah May. Hannah had just had a child four days earlier. The child was lying next to her in the bed when Hannah was shot and was unharmed. Hannah also had a two year old child who was not in the home at the time, but was with her biological father in another city. Unfortunately for poor Bobby Joe, due to the timeline of the 911 calls, she would become an immediate unofficial suspect, and would be asked to take at least two polygraph tests, both which she passed. The second 911 call was made on April 22 at 1:26pm Donald stone who after hearing of the murders of the other family members on the news, went to check on his cousin Kenneth Roden, who lived about six miles from the other properties on the left fork road in garden. When he entered the home Donald discovered his cousin dead from gunshot wounds.

Unknown Speaker 9:20

Titanic star Go ahead. Yeah

Unknown Speaker 9:25

yeah, I need it. Now to close to 799

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Unknown Speaker 9:33

All this stuff is going to lose

Unknown Speaker 9:36

them just get on with again got my

Unknown Speaker 9:48

start. It was just that line. I don't know what his address is. They don't you don't have a boss.

Unknown Speaker 9:56

Okay, I'll make that sound Yeah. What do you think?

Unknown Speaker 10:09

Okay, so right now I'm I'm out of the house right now I just went in

Unknown Speaker 10:16

and checked.

Unknown Speaker 10:21

Okay, we're gonna get out there. Okay. All right.

Unknown Speaker 10:29

Police arrived on the properties started to process the crime scenes and began what came to be the largest investigation in Ohio history. Once law enforcement processed the scene and identified the victims, the cause of death for each of the victims was revealed. And it was astonishing. I'm going to break down the locations of the wounds for each of the victims. Christopher Rhoden senior was shot nine times he was possible awake at the time of the murder, as there were signs of a struggle on his body. He was shot in his head, torso and cheek. And he had defensive wounds to his right forearm that shattered bones and he was believed to be among the first killed. There was at least one shot that went through a door before hitting him. Gary Rhoden, who was in the same property as Christopher Rhoden senior also had multiple gunshot wounds. Gary was shot two times in the head and one time in the face. In one of the shots The gun was pressed against the side of his head so hard It left a muzzle stain. Dana Lynn Rhoden the ex wife of Christopher Roden also had multiple gunshot wounds. She was in a separate property on the location along with her son Christopher and her daughter Hannah. Dana was shot in the head and neck. She was shot four times on the right side of the head and one time under her chin Christopher Jr, the youngest of the victims at 16 years old, was shot multiple times in the head. Hannah may wrote in 19 years old was shot two times in the head. Clarence, Frankie Roden, who resided in a separate house along with his fiance, Hannah Hazel Gilly was shot multiple times in the head. Hannah Hazel Gilley, 20 years old fiance of Clarence, Frankie Roden, was shot multiple times in the head, including one time to her left eye. KENNETH wrote in 44 years old, who resided in a property six miles away, died from a single gunshot through his right eye. bruising was found on some of the bodies indicating that some of the victims were awake at the time, or they struggled or were beaten by the assailants. An estimated total of 32 shots were fired, and it was confirmed that none of the victims committed suicide. It became obvious that this was nothing short of a planned out execution of multiple people at multiple properties. local and state law enforcement worked through the night on April 22. Obtaining search warrants gathering information from the remaining family members and community members, but were provided with no solid leads. They had no initial answers or suspects for the crime, and they wouldn't for the next two years. All they did know was that it appeared to be a pre planned calculated murder, and that the family had been targeted. Meanwhile, in the small community of Pike County, residents were concerned for their families and wondered if there was a killer on the loose or if their family was next. Trying to create a sense of normalcy among the tragedy. Pike County continue to hold their annual Pike County dogwood festival the same month as the shootings. But it was obvious that the recent murders affected the community attendance was much smaller than normal that year, as the attendees couldn't help but ask each other if each had heard about the recent murders.

Unknown Speaker 14:10

Three days following the murders, the Ohio Attorney General's Office confirm that marijuana plants were present at the union Hill Road property and included an indoor grow house, where an estimated 200 cannabis plants were grown, presumably for sale, not personal use, and cockfighting operations were present at some of the Rhoden properties. They didn't confirm any connection to this to the murders. But speculations arose as to the reasons why they would have been murdered, including links to drug cartels. When this information came out in the media, that was the consensus that because there were drugs involved that it had to be a crime related to the sale of narcotics. Pike County was no stranger to drug issues in 2010 2000 cannabis plants were seized by authorities in Latham 15 miles west of Piketon, and another cannabis growth site was found in 2012 and contained about 1200 cannabis plants. In both cases, connections to the Mexican drug cartels were suspected. When interviewed by authorities, some family members of the Romans admitted that both Christopher Roden senior, and Kenneth Roden grew cannabis, but of course, stated that they were not aware of any high volume growing operations. On April 28, the funeral for Gary Rhoden was the first to be held in South Shore Kentucky, Hannah Hazel Gilley was next, with her services held on May 1 in Ohio. funerals for the remaining victims took place on May 3 at West Portsmouth with a high level of security. Many members of the community attended the funerals and memorial services. The Attorney General Mike dewine approved more than 20 thousand dollars to help pay for the funerals of the victims. a reward of 10,000 was also authorized from the southern Ohio Crimestoppers fun on May 10. But due to a miscommunication and a misunderstanding about public notification, it was not announced by authorities until 10 weeks later on July 21. There was also a reward offered up by Cincinnati area businessman named Jeff Ruby, who offered $25,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone involved in the shootings. But there was a concern if he would withdraw the reward due to the developments of the cannabis operations. Here's Jeff Ruby talking to inside addition about the reward.

Unknown Speaker 16:45

local restaurant owner Jeff Ruby is putting up a $25,000 reward for the capture of the killers. Steven Fabian asked him about the marijuana connection. Can you shed any light on that? I don't know anything about it. Somebody tweeted me Are you still gonna put the 25 pounds If this was in drubbing button, I haven't even bother responding to that tweet. Do we still want those people on the list

Unknown Speaker 17:05

strangely following this interview, and on April 28 2016, Jeff Ruby withdrew his reward, citing recent complex criminal developments in the case in a post on Twitter, so maybe he had heard that someone in particular was being investigated. As police continued their investigation, the belief that more than one shooter was responsible began to surface. This belief came about because two of the properties were within walking distance of each other. The third was about a mile away. And the fourth property where Kenneth Rhoden was murdered, was about six miles away. The fact that the shooters made efforts to cover up their tracks and not leave any forensic evidence indicated to law enforcement that this was a sophisticated and planned operation, as there were no suspects identified at the time. police didn't know if the suspects were We're still on the loose or if any other family members were also in danger, they told the surviving family members to take necessary precautions.

Unknown Speaker 18:09

I advised them as their Sheriff to be armed. And to use caution because they were a target it's evidence.

Unknown Speaker 18:16

This was an extremely large investigation. The Ohio bureau of criminal identification and investigation led a task force of about 100 members in the investigation that combined with law enforcement personnel resulted in over 250 officials being involved in the case. sheriff's from 25 offices across the state of Ohio also offered to provide their resources to Pike County. The FBI of course was also involved as well as the Drug Enforcement Administration and provided their expertise and advice to Ohio's Attorney General Mike dewine but did not take over the operation at the initial stages of the investigation. More than 50 people were interviewed and at least five search warrants were executed. A total of 79 pieces of evidence were examined. And that included a Facebook threat to Christopher Rhoden Jr, which was posted on the social media site prior to the shootings. With no suspects identified and no leads, the investigators continued to gather multiple pieces of evidence, focusing mainly on the crime scenes and victims properties. They towed several vehicles belonging to the Russians and collected more than 400 tips from the public, as well as held hundreds of interviews. On May 12, the Attorney General and the pike county sheriff announced that they were going to relocate the mobile homes of the victims to a secure location to preserve evidence and protect the property of the road and family. Six months later, the mobile homes and personal property were returned to the victim's relatives on November 24 2000. 16

Unknown Speaker 20:09

let's talk about the surviving children. The three children that were spared and left unharmed during the shootings, which is unusual in itself because if it was a gang killing or a drug cartel murder, why would they leave the children unharmed? They have no moral compass. There's no compelling reason to leave any witness or really anyone alive at the locations no matter what their age. So did the killers have a conscience? The children were three year old Brantley Rhoden, son of Frankie Roden from another relationship, six month old Ruger Roden, who was the son of Frankie Roden and Hannah Gilly and four day old Kylie Rhoden who was the newborn daughter of Hannah Mae Roden following the death of their parents, both the four day old and the six month old were placed in protective services. three year old Brantley is now in the custody of his biological mother, who was not involved or present during the shootings. 19 year old victim Hannah Mae Rosen's two year old daughter, Sophia Wagner, who was luckily with her biological father, Edward Jake Wagner. Hannah's ex boyfriend at the time of the shootings was not harmed. Edward Jake Wagner, the 24 year old biological father of Sophia Wagner, is the son of Angela and George Wagner the third, Jake also has an older brother, George Wagner the fourth. Jake lived with his parents and brother and grew up in South Webster, Ohio, about 50 miles east from the Rodin's property. We don't know much about how the relationship between the rodents and the Wagner's began. But we do know that Jake Wagner and Hannah Mae Roden lived together at one time, during which they had Sophia, who was born in November of two Thousand 13 after a couple years they eventually broke up in March of 2015. At the time Sophia was born, Jake worked on his family's farm. The Wagner's were considered to be a good Christian family among community members and were known for their vast property holdings. Jake's grandmother frederico Wagner has a 2000 acre ranch in Lucasfilm, Ohio, called the flying w farm. If you want to check it out, it's www dot flying w, which is known for breeding and selling miniature horses, as well as a trademarks dog breed. The family also got into breeding miniature Vietnamese pot bellied pigs. They like their miniatures, I guess, reportedly worth anywhere from 1000 to $20,000 apiece, on April 28, six days following the murders Jake, why filed a petition to the court asking for full custody of his daughter and was granted full custody in May of 2016. When the media question Jake and his mother Angela Wagner, about this petition being filed so close after the murders, they insisted that there was no custody battle, but that they've been working with a lawyer in the weeks prior to the murders to formalize a verbal, not a written custody arrangement with Hannah Rhoden relative to the road and said that Jake Wagner and his father George Wagner, the third had argued and fought with the Romans in the weeks prior to the murders, trying to get custody of Sophia, but this was disputed by Jake Wagner. Jake said that he didn't go to Hannah's house prior to April 22. And demand she signed over custody. He didn't want that, but rather wanted to continue the arrange shared custody agreement because it was working just fine as this enter interaction between the Wagner's and Rodin's was made apparent. This triggered a new direction in the investigation. It had been slightly over a year since the murders with no arrests made, when in June 2017, Attorney General to wine asked for the public's help to report any information that included business interactions with the Wagner family, specifically information regarding vehicles, firearms and ammunition. At this point, the Wagner's came out and claimed they were now being publicly singled out and harassed. So what did they do? They sold their farm and move to a remote part of Alaska, which if you want to drop off the grid and disappear, it's pretty easy to do there. In part two of this series, we'll find out if the Wagner's move off the grid was to truly avoid harassment or if there was a Darker motive play

Unknown Speaker 25:04

this wraps up Episode Seven part one of the pike county murders. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed this podcast please be sure to subscribe and rate the podcast on Apple podcast or wherever you listen to your podcast so you can be sure to catch the next episode. Be sure to check out our website at www dot the crime shack comm for the latest episodes and show notes and be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram at the crime shack podcast and on Twitter at the crime shack


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