Investigators search farm 10 miles from scene of Rhoden family massacre; 2nd search made at car lot

Investigators search farm near Rhoden family massacre

State and county investigators were searching a farm and a car lot in Adams County Friday afternoon, just a few miles from where eight members of the Rhoden family were shot and killed last spring, authorities said.

But authorities would not discuss if the search is tied to the massive investigation into the Rhoden family killings on April 22, 2016.

Crews from the Pike County Sheriff's Department, the Adams County Sheriff's Department, the Ohio Criminal Bureau of Investigation and the Ohio Rehabilitation and Corrections Department were involved in a search operation, said Dan Tierney, a spokesman for the Ohio Attorney General's office. He declined to say if authorities were removing items or were digging.

Deputies from the Pike County sheriff's office hauled two red four-wheelers from the farm scene just before 6 p.m. Friday.

Investigators also were searching Unlimited Motors at 28171 Ohio 41 in Peebles. State records show the principal owner of the business at Brian K. Brown.

Authorities declined to say if the searches were connected. Tierney would not say if the farm search was tied to the killings of seven adults and one teenager on Union Hill Road. The case has remained without an arrest nor a stated motive for more than a year, which has frustrated family members of those killed.

Tierney also declined to provide an exact location where the search was being made or what authorities might be looking for at the site. He said he did not know if authorities had obtained a search warrant for their probe.

"I cannot comment on the nature of the search," he said.

Several family members were surprised to learn of the search and said they were eager to know more. Kendra Rhoden, the daughter of victim Kenneth Rhoden arrived at the area Friday but left a short time later, after speaking to Adams County Sheriff Kimmy Rogers.

Images taken by the media show BCI evidence vans and multiple sheriff squad cars outside a red farmhouse and several outbuildings at 260 Peterson Road. The home and various outbuildings, as well as 71 acres, are owned by Edward J. Wagner and George W. Wagner IV, according to the Adams County Auditor's website.

But one official said Friday he thought the Wagners, who could not be reached Friday afternoon, may have recently sold the property. A real estate website indicates the property sold on March 10, 2017 for $165,000.

The Enquirer interviewed Jake Wagner and his mother Angela Wagner at the home in May 2016 for several hours. Jake Wagner was the one-time boyfriend of Hanna Rhoden and the father of her oldest daughter Sophia Wagner, who is now 4. Jake Wager won full custody of his daughter after the killings, he has said.

Hanna Rhoden was killed in the massacre as her five-day-old baby, Kylie, lay next to her. The newborn was left unharmed. Sophia was with Jake that murderous morning and the crime devasted both Jake and Sophia, he said in that previous interview. Wagner is a diesel mechanic and an over-the-road truck driver, along with his brother, he has said.

The 71 acres of farm property includes one home, 11 tillable acres, 45 acres of pasture and 14.4 acres of woodland, according to the Adams County Auditor's website. It is about 12 miles south and west of the crime scenes on Union Hill Road in Pike County.

It could not be determined if authorities were searching other land or other property.

A Pike County Sheriff's truck hauled away two four-wheel vehicles from the farm just before 6 p.m.

Tierney said he doubted that the attorney general's office would have additional information Friday.

Seven adults and a teenage boy from the Rhoden family were found shot to death at four homes near Piketon, in the foothills of Appalachia. In addition to Kenneth, 44; and Hannah, 19, the others killed were Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16, Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40, Clarence Rhoden, 20, Dana Rhoden, 37, Gary Rhoden, 38 and Hannah Gilley, 20.

In April, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said there had been “significant progress” in the investigation but authorities have made no arrests, making the Pike County, Ohio murders one of the prolific unsolved murders in the nation.

Authorities have said the killers were familiar with the homes, the surrounding area and most likely the family. Officials have said they found three "commercial-grade" marijuana grow operations at Kenneth Rhoden's home and Christopher Rhoden's property.

But they have never discussed a motive in the state's most complex investigation.

The Cincinnati Enquirer


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