On the night of April 21, 2016, eight people were killed in four homes in Pike County, Ohio. All eight victims were part of the Rhoden family. Seven of the victims, a 16-year-old boy and six adults, were found to have been shot execution style in the head, while the eighth was shot to death in his trailer in nearby Piketon. It was the second deadliest mass shooting of 2016 behind the Pulse Nightclub shooting and the largest criminal investigation in Ohio’s history. It would be known as “The Piketon Massacre.”
Two years later, a local family of four was arrested and charged with the murders, shocking the rest of the tight knit Piketon community. “The Piketon Massacre” speaks with townspeople, psychologists, investigators and friends and family of the victims to piece together possible motives for the murders. They also want to find out how these families are connected, and how far that connection must go to justify murder.
The first season of “The Piketon Massacre” captures the shock and division of the small Ohio town. The Rhoden family had roots in Pike County that went back generations; the close knit family lived within just a few miles of each other and had become a fixture in the community. So, on the morning of April 22, when Bobby Jo Manley went to Christopher Rhoden Sr.’s home, he found him and his cousin, Gary Rhoden, shot to death.
Manley called the police, and quickly went to the second home on the Rhoden property, where the young Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden and his fiancée Hannah Gilley lived. She went to tell them the news of his father’s murder, but instead, Frankie’s three-year-old son answered the door, telling his aunt that his father was “playing zombie.” Manley found Frankie and Gilley dead as well, in their bed with their six-month-old baby who had been spared.
Meanwhile, Manley’s brother, James, had gone to check on Dana Lynn Rhoden, Chris Sr.’s ex-wife, and found her, their daughter Hannah May, and son Christopher Jr. also dead. Hannah Mae’s 5-day-old baby had been spared, like her cousin’s. Later that day, Kenneth Rhoden, brother of Christopher Sr., was found dead in his home. Eight family members found dead in seperate homes, with three children spared. At the end of this story, it will have been two families ripped apart, and a sleepy town that became the epicenter of a grisly mass murder would never be the same.
In the second season of “The Piketon Massacre,” released in the summer of 2021, the team is revisited Pike County to examine the events and see where everyone stands now. They cover the news in court: on April 21, 2021, Jake Wagner pled guilty to the eight murders, as well as other counts. What will this mean for the three other Wagners who will still stand trial? Within this season, new crimes are discovered and the case takes many new twists and turns. Listen to “The Piketon Massacre” to hear the entire story and find out why the Rhoden’s were being hunted.