Rhoden relative charged with evidence tampering in Pike County Massacre appears in court

WAVERLY – The brother of a victim of the Rhoden family massacre was arraigned Wednesday morning on charges of evidence tampering and vandalism related to the 13-month investigation.

 

The charges allege James Thomas Manley, 40, took a GPS-tracking device off his truck and smashed it on the sidewalk, just a little over a week after investigators obtained a court order to place the surveillance device on the truck.

Manley, who is considered a witness in the case, turned himself into authorities Tuesday after the Pike County Sheriff's office filed the felony-level charges. He was jailed in Ross County in Chillicothe and appeared at his arraignment at 11:05 a.m. Wednesday, where bail was set at 80,000. Manley would be released if 10 percent of the bond was posted.

 

 

Manley will appear in court again at 1 p.m. on May 22, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer's Chris Graves.

Manley's Tuesday arrest came just a day after his father provided The Enquirer with the warrant that granted state agents the authority to attach a GPS device to track his son's truck. The warrant was issued April 21. Leonard Manley, who has openly criticized Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents, told The Enquirer that his son removed the device after he discovered it on the bottom of his pickup truck.

On Wednesday, a visibly upset Leonard Manley said no one in his family could be responsible for the killings. He said he's fed up with the 13 months of scrutiny and thinks the GPS device was put on his son's truck after agents found a text message sent from his son's phone to Jake Wagner, a former boyfriend of victim Hanna Rhoden.

"I can see why people go over the deep end," Leonard Manley said.

Rhoden relative charged with evidence tampering in Pike County Massacre case

Agents put the device on the frame of James Manley's truck at his home on Union Hill Road on April 22, records state. The last signal received was at 11:35 a.m. April 28, according to the affidavit filed with the criminal complaint. Agents went to James Manley's home Monday to deliver a copy of the warrant and were meet by Leonard Manley, who told them the device wasn't on the truck.

James Manley's wife, April, told agents her husband found the device and "smashed it on the sidewalk,'' the affidavit states. The device was worth $318.

The charges and arrest angered the elder Manley and many members of his family who gathered at his home on Union Hill Road, about a mile from where eight members of the Rhoden family were shot and killed April 22, 2016.

Investigators have never disclosed a motive in the case, nor have they named any suspects in the largest and most complex investigation in Ohio history. James Manley found his sister, Dana Manley Rhoden, dead in her trailer on April 22, 2016, making him a witness in the case.

The charges do not implicate James Manley in the deaths, nor does the warrant name him as a suspect in the deaths of his sister, her ex-husband and their three children and three other family members. The warrant indicated authorities believe the truck was “used as a means of the commission of the crime." Or it was in the "possession of another person with the intent to use the vehicle as a means of committing a crime.'' The warrant says it is tied to an aggravated murder case.

Leonard Manley said his son recently bought the truck and it is not the same truck his son owned the day of the killings just over a year ago. Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles shows the title of the truck was transferred to a Pike County owner on March 2, 2017. The record does not list the owner's name. The truck was purchased for $200 with 227,793 miles on it, the state record said.

The Ohio Attorney General's office said such charges are not uncommon when "when a witness destroys such a device used in a government investigation."

A preliminary hearing in the case, where the state must provide evidence supporting the charges, will occur within 10 days, Junk said. A grand jury meets on May 25 and may consider the case, he said.

Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader and Attorney General Mike DeWine have threatened arrests in the case if they believed doing so would help find the killers of the Rhoden family.

Killed in the massacre were: Christopher Rhoden, Sr., 40; his wife, Dana Manley Rhoden, 37; and their children, Clarence "Frankie" Rhoden, 20, and his fiancee, Hannah Hazel Gilley, 20; Hanna Rhoden, 19, and Christopher Rhoden, 16; his brother, Kenneth Rhoden, 44; and his cousin, Gary Rhoden, 38.

Anyone with information related to the case is asked to call the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation at 855-BCI-OHIO (224-6446) or the Pike County Sheriff's Office at 740-947-2111. There remains a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and a conviction in the case. 

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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