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Eight Members of Ohio Family Dead in 'Execution-Style' Killings

by Corky Siemaszko and Elizabeth Chuck /  / Updated 
Image:
Authorities create a perimeter near a crime scene on Union Hill Rd, Friday, April 22, 2016, in Pike County, Ohio. Shootings with multiple fatalities were reported along a road in rural Ohio on Friday morning, but details on the number of deaths and the whereabouts of the suspect or suspects weren't immediately clear.John Minchillo / AP

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A massive manhunt intensified Saturday for at least one killer responsible for the "execution-style" murder of eight members of a family in rural Ohio.

The victims were found with a bullet to the head in a small town east of Cincinnati in what appeared to be a targeted killing.

One of the victims was a young mom who was murdered as she lay in bed with her 4-day-old child, who escaped harm amid the slaughter. Two other children also survived.

Overnight, forensic teams worked four crime scenes and officers interviewed 30 people, but no arrests have been made so far.

"There is a strong possibility that any individuals involved with this are armed and extremely dangerous," Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader warned.

Jeff Ruby, a Cincinnati-area restaurant owner, offered $25,000 for any information leading to an arrest, said Attorney General Mike DeWine Saturday. On Friday, DeWine said there could be multiple suspects.

"There may be one, there may be two, there may be three, we just don't know," he said. "We're very early in this investigation."

The victims were all members of the Rhoden family of Piketon, Ohio, found dead in four separate homes. Two other children — one 6-months-old, the other 3 years old — were found alive amid the bodies and have been taken to a nearby hospital for observation.

On Saturday, a woman speaking on behalf of the Rhoden family thanked investigators and said the family had asked for prayers and for anyone with information to contact the state bureau of investigation.

Investigators made contact with the Rhoden family and death notifications were being made Friday night, officials said. "We expressed directly to them our deepest sympathy for the family," DeWine said. "This is just a horrible, horrible tragedy."

Seven of the victims were adults and the eighth was a male 16-year-old, DeWine said. None of them died by suicide, he added.

"We have a specific family that has been targeted," Reader, the sheriff, said. The sheriff's office was working with family members to provide protection as a hunt for the killer or killers continued.

Piketon, with a population of 2,181, is about 95 miles east of Cincinnati.

"We're praying for the family," Pastor Phil Fulton of the nearby Union Hill Church, which the victims attended, told TODAY. "We're trying to lift up the family."

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican presidential candidate, weighed in from the campaign trail, tweeting that what happened is "tragic beyond comprehension."

"There's eight people dead, execution-style," he told reporters. "What can you say?"

Reader and DeWine said the investigation could take some time, but investigators were being thorough so that once a suspect is identified and caught, they can be prosecuted.

"When this investigation is complete, it's going to point us in the direction that we need to go, and we'll find who did this," Reader said.

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