By Scott Halasz
XENIA — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is in unfamiliar territory investigating last week’s murders in Pike County.
“I’ve never experienced anything like this,” the Cedarville resident and former Greene County prosecutor said Thursday. “It’s very different.”
And DeWine has presided over a plethora of cases since being elected in 2010.
His investigation of Athens County Sheriff Patrick Kelly led to an indictment in 2014. DeWine’s office helped out with a police chase that ended in a violent crash in Cleveland the same year. And the AG was involved with the much-publicized Steubenville High School rape case in 2012.
None of those compare.
“This is the worst case I’ve ever seen,” DeWine said. “Because of the number — eight people killed — same family, four different crime scenes. It certainly is a major case. It may be the biggest, in time, that BCI has ever had.”
Eight members of the Rhoden family were killed execution-style last week. There are no known motives and no known suspects. Only questions devoid of answers.
Pike County law enforcement officials called in DeWine’s office shortly after the discovery of the bodies at four locations. Initially, DeWine said his crime scene investigation experts were called in to handle the four scenes. Then he committed more people for the actual investigation. At any given time, there could be as many as 40 people in the tiny community 90 miles east of Cincinnati. DeWine said it may be the biggest case as far as commitment of people.
But that’s part of the reason why his office exists.
“We’re here to serve the counties and serve the sheriffs and the prosecutors and the police departments,” DeWine said. “We’re working with them.”
Not only is DeWine’s office taxed in terms of personnel, it will be challenged financially.
“When you do a crime scene, any complex crime scene is going to involve overtime,” DeWine said. “We want the same agent or agents who started it to finish it. It’s the continuity and the knowledge.”
DeWine said agents who started the case at 11 a.m. Friday didn’t leave the scene until after 3 a.m. Saturday. The actual cost of the investigation won’t be known for a while.
“That’s what we deal with,” he said.
And then there is the mental part of the investigation. As DeWine toured the homes for the first time Wednesday, he couldn’t help but take a step back and look at the situation a regular person, not Ohio’s highest-ranking lawyer.
“I think what always impacts me in murder scenes, particularly if they’re inside someone’s home, is the thought as you look around the room, you see all personal things,” he said. “You just think, this was the home of people who were alive just a few days ago and they went about their business. They had no idea that their life was going to end that quickly. (The teenager) had stuff that you would expect a young teenager who loved sports to have stuff on his wall. It could be my son’s room, could be anyone’s son’s room. That brings home the gravity (of the murders).”
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.