Investigators probing the mysterious execution-style killings of eight family members in rural Ohio last week have found evidence of illegal cockfighting and marijuana cultivation on their property, state officials said on Tuesday.
Cockfighting chickens, cages and signs of a breeding operation have been discovered on the land in Appalachian-Pike County, about 95 miles east of Cincinnati, Dan Tierney, a spokesman for Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, said in an email.
Cockfighting is illegal throughout the United States.
Law enforcement officials have said that the Rhoden family members found shot to death on Friday at four homes in rural Ohio had been targeted for execution in a pre-planned, “sophisticated operation.”
No arrests have been made, officials said. Each of the victims, aged 16 to 44, was found in bed and had been shot in the head, they noted.
A commercial-scale marijuana cultivation operation has also been also found at three of the crime scenes but authorities have not said if that was linked to the killings, Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader said.
The victims included Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40; his ex-wife, Dana Rhoden, 37; and their three children, Hanna, 19, Christopher Jr., 16, and Clarence, 20. Hanna Rhoden was found dead beside her infant daughter, who survived along with a six-month-old boy and a 3-year-old boy.
Three others have been identified as Christopher Sr.’s brother, Kenneth Rhoden, 44; a cousin, Gary Rhoden, 38; and Clarence Rhoden’s girlfriend, Hannah Gilley, 20, with whom he had fathered a 6-month-old boy and was said to be engaged to.
All eight of the autopsies have been completed, officials said. All of the victims suffered gunshot wounds; one of them was shot five times and another nine times, according to a preliminary report of Ohio’s Hamilton County coroner.
(Reporting by Kim Palmer; Editing by Scott Malone and Richard Chang)a