Authorities charged the brother of a victim of the Rhoden family massacre with evidence tampering and vandalism, according to Pike County court records. The development comes just a day after his father disclosed that state agents had been using a GPS device to track his son's truck and that his son had removed the device.
James Manley, 40, was at his logging job in Lima Tuesday, just a day after agents showed up at his home to take off a GPS tracking device that they had earlier installed, said his father Leonard Manley. But, Manley said, he told them that his son discovered the device about a week earlier and took it off the underside of his truck.
The elder Manley said his son would turn himself in. He was not listed as booked into the Pike County jail as of Tuesday afternoon.
"The next time they want to come to my place, I'm going to run them off," Leonard Manley said. "Every time they want to come to my place now they are going to need a warrant."
Tampering with evidence is a third-degree felony and vandalism is a fifth-degree felony, the court records said.
The Ohio Attorney General's office said the charges are tied to the Rhoden family killings and are not uncommon when "when a witness destroys such a device used in a government investigation."
The criminal complaint alleges that Manley removed and "caused serious physical harm" to the GPS device on or before April 28.
Manley is the older brother of Dana Manley Rhoden, who was shot to death during the April 22, 2016 homicide that left seven of her family members dead and sparked the largest and most complex investigation in Ohio history, which until Tuesday remained without an arrest.
Leonard Manley provided a copy of the search warrant to The Enquirer Monday. Pike County Common Pleas Court Judge Timothy S. Hogan signed the warrant on April 21, allowing agents to legally install the device on Manley's 1997 Chevrolet K2500 truck, indicating it was "used as a means of the commission of the crime'' of aggravated murder. The warrant also noted that the truck may have been in the possession of another person with the intent to use it as a means of committing the crime. It was not the same truck officials towed from crime scenes and kept during the first weeks of the investigation.
The search warrant never names Manley as a suspect, nor does it state that it is tied to the Rhoden homicide investigation. However, authorities have repeatedly questioned various family members as part of the Rhoden family massacre investigation.
BCI agents left a copy of the warrant, along with threats to arrest the younger Manley and his father, at the home, the elder Manley said.
"They told me they were going to arrest me for obstruction of justice,'' he said, putting out his arms as if to be handcuffed. "I told them to go ahead and do it."
Dan Tierney, a spokesman for the Ohio Attorney, declined to discuss the warrant Tuesday, noting that all search warrants and court orders to date have been sealed in the case.
But Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader and Attorney General Mike DeWine have threatened arrest in the case if they believed doing so would help find the killers of the Rhoden family. Reader did not respond to an email Tuesday.
Are investigators getting closer?
It is not the first time agents singled out the Manley family. Just two to three weeks ago, the elder Manley said BCI agents surprised his son at his job around 5 p.m. and took him to Dayton, where he submitted to a polygraph test. Manley said agents took him back to his work site at 4 a.m. On Monday, a BCI agent told Manley his son failed that test. The Enquirer was unable to reach James Manley Tuesday.
Manley's youngest daughter, Bobby Jo, has said she has submitted two polygraph tests and was told she passed both of them. She found four of the eight victims and her brother, James, found his sister dead in her trailer, family members have said. Manley said his son and his eldest daughter were extremely close and there is no way he could be involved in the killings.
It is not uncommon for homicide investigators to focus their probe on those closest to the victims and those who found the victims.
In another disclosure, the elder Manley said agents told him Monday that a text from his son’s phone was sent to Jake Wagner’s phone at 2 a.m. the morning of the massacre. Wagner was the long-time boyfriend of Hanna Rhoden, who was James Manley's niece and Dana Manley Rhoden's daughter.
Even so, the elder Manley said he is fed up with the intense and constant scrutiny of his family.
Manley said he feels authorities are “grasping at straws,'' adding he is growing increasingly frustrated by the ongoing scrutiny. He said he and his family have provided DNA samples, been interviewed numerous times and have cooperated in the probe, entering its 13th month without an arrest.
"It's like a wound and then you pick at it and they are starting to pick pretty hard,'' he said. "I've always believed justice was supposed to be fair, but it ain't. Not when they go picking on people I know. I'm tired of it, they've harassed me enough.
"I've had a belly full of it,'' he said.
The investigation publicly intensified Friday and Saturday as authorities searched two farms and property owned by the Wagner family in Adams and Pike counties. The farms are all about 10 to 12 miles from the crime scenes on Union Hill Road. It was unclear, what if anything authorities seized during those searches. Tierney has declined to discuss the location of those "search operations,'' or tied them to the Rhoden investigation.
However, a spokesman for the Franklin County Sheriff's Office said its SWAT team helped in the raid. He declined to confirm that the search was at the Flying W Farm, which is owned and operated by Fredericka and George Wagner. They are tJake Wagner's grandparents.
A neighbor said he counted at least 33 police vehicles that went up the farm, which includes a church, several barns, and a large home. The Wagner breed horse, American Mastiffs and pigs on the property, which includes a church. The neighbor said he saw a vehicle marked with SWAT, an ambulance, and one that appeared to be an amphibious-type vehicle.
Attempts to reach Jake Wagner, his parents and grandparents have been unsuccessful.
The Cincinnati Enquirer