PIKETON, Ohio — An out-of-breath caller who found two of the eight slain members of an Ohio family told a 911 dispatcher in a quavering voice that “there’s blood all over the house.”
“I think my brother-in-law’s dead,” she said, her voice rising as she adds later that it looks like someone has “beat the crap out of them.”
“I think they’re both dead,” she said before breaking down into sobs, according to one of two 911 call recordings released Saturday by the state attorney general’s office.
The calls were released a day after eight family members were found dead with gunshots to the head at four properties in rural southern Ohio, and
Authorities continued the scramble to determine who targeted that clan and why. Investigators said they interviewed more than 30 people in hopes of finding leads in the deaths of the seven adults and 16-year-old boy whose bodies were found Friday at homes southwest of Piketon.
It appeared some of the family members were killed as they slept, including a mother in bed with her 4-day-old baby nearby, authorities said. The newborn and two other small children were not hurt.
Authorities said all the victims were members of the Rhoden family, but they declined to provide any more information about them or the status of the investigation. None of the deaths appeared self-inflicted and that they believed at least one assailant remained at large, officials said.
Authorities urged surviving members of the Rhoden family to take precautions and offered help, and they recommended that area residents also be wary.
Phil Fulton, the pastor of Union Hill Church up the road from where some of the victims were found, described the family as close-knit and hardworking. He said they were previously part of his congregation, though not recently.
“We’re just doing everything we can to reach out to the family to show them love and comfort,” Fulton said.
Reading a statement from the family, Kimberly Newman of the Ohio Crisis Response Team, told reporters gathered alongside the barricaded road that leads to some of the crime scenes that they appreciated “the outpouring of prayers and support.”
“They ask that you continue to keep them in your prayers,” Newman said.
The exact timing of the shootings remained unclear. Authorities got the first 911 call shortly before 8 a.m. Friday, and the second call came several hours later from another location, where the caller said he found his cousin with a gunshot wound.
“I just went in hollering at him … And I looked up at him and he had a gunshot wound,” he said.
Two of the crime scenes are within walking distance of each other along a sparsely populated, winding road that leads into wooded hills from a rural highway. The third residence is more than a mile away, and the fourth home is on a different road, at least a 10-minute drive away, said the investigation’s leader, Benjamin Suver, a special agent in charge with Bureau of Criminal Investigations.
Investigators blocked off wide areas around the crime scenes, but aerial photos showed law enforcement vehicles parked outside the properties. One scene appeared to have a trailer home and several others buildings a short walk apart, with a school bus and numerous other vehicles parked in the grass around the property.
Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said in a joint statement Saturday that investigators worked through the night processing evidence at the scene. Officials said a Cincinnati-area businessman put up a $25,000 reward for information leading to the capture and conviction of the killer or killers.
Authorities refused to discuss details about the crime scenes, such as the type or number of weapons used, what evidence was found and whether anything appeared to be missing from the homes.
They didn’t identify the dead by name but confirmed all victims were members of the Rhoden family. The owner of at least two of the properties is listed as Christopher Rhoden, according to Pike County auditor’s records.
Kendra Jordan, 20, said she often worked nights at a nursing home with the mother of the newborn and described her as outgoing, funny and always smiling.
“If you were having a bad day, she’d be the first one to come up to you to question you about what was going on,” Jordan said. “She was amazing.”
Jordan said the town would have difficulty recovering from the loss of a such a well-known family in the tight-knit community.
“Everyone knows that family, you can’t not know that family,” she said. “They’re involved in everything, and they’re at every event that’s going on in town. Just about see them anywhere you went.”