PIKE COUNTY, OH (FOX19) - There hasn't been a text message 188 days. It would come every morning. "I love you," it would read.
To: Kendra Rhoden. From: Kenneth Rhoden.
Kenneth called her "K." Kendra called him "dad."
"I'll wake up and I'll be driving down the road, and I'll start. Oh, I don't have anything to do today, I'm going to go see Hanna, go see my dad. Or, I'll wake up and I'll expect Hanna to be calling me or texting me or my random 'I love you' messages from my dad and none of it's there," Kendra said.
"It still feels like a dream."
Kendra Rhoden is the youngest of Kenneth Rhoden's three children. Kenneth was the eighth and final victim found on April 22 after gunmen made their way down Union Hill and Left Fork Roads. By the end of the killing spree, eight members of this Pike County family were dead.
All were shot "execution-style," as Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine described in an April 22 press conference.
Investigators still don't know why it happened or who did it. Neither the Pike County Sheriff's Office, nor some of the best investigators in the state's attorney general's office have yet to be able to identify and charge the killers.
What investigators do know: the eight members of the Rhoden family were "targeted," killed in their beds.
A TOOTHACHE AND A BABYSITTING GIG
April 21, Kendra Rhoden and her boyfriend were driving down Highway 32, following behind Hanna Rhoden and her red Jeep. The two Rhoden cousins were headed to Hanna's house for a sleepover.
Its' something Kendra said they did many times a week.
"We were cousins, but we were more like sisters," Kendra told us in an Oct. 10 interview.
They shared nearly everything, Kendra said. There wasn't much one didn't know about the other.
Hanna and Kendra haven't shared a secret in more than six months.
But, a bit of fate changed the plans the night of the killings. Kendra's boyfriend developed a toothache and the pair turned around on Highway 32 and headed back to Kendra's house - clear across the county.
Kendra said she'd planned to return to Union Hill Road and stay with Hanna that night. But then, a friend called asking if Kendra could babysit. She couldn't pass up a favor for a friend—and the extra money—and spent the night caring for her friend's baby.
That U-turn on Highway 32 would be the last time Kendra would ever see her cousin again. Hanna didn't know it, but that would be the last ride she'd take down Highway 32 alive.
"You were supposed to be there that night, in Dana Rhoden's house," FOX19 NOW investigative reporter Jody Barr asked Kendra during the Oct. 10 interview. "Yes," Kendra answered.
"You could have been the ninth victim," Barr asked, "I could have been, but I wasn't for a reason," Kendra said.
That night, gunmen got inside Hanna's home. They shot her, her brother Chris Jr. and her mother, Dana. The gunmen spared Hanna's four-day old baby, Kylie, who investigators said was lying next to Hanna.
Hanna had named Kendra the godmother of her newborn, Kendra said. The proof, according to Kendra, is written inside the cover of a bible Hanna kept in her bedroom.
If not for that toothache and emergency babysitting job, Kendra would have been there that night.
"There was a reason for it. It's not to say I don't sometimes think I should have been there; maybe if I was there, maybe I could have changed things, but there's a reason I was not there," Kendra said, "So, there's a reason I've got to keep going."
That reason, Kendra said, was to fulfill her promise to her cousin to take care of her newborn daughter in case something ever happened to her.
Neither ever dreamed that scenario would ever really come true.
For six months, from the time she wakes up to the time she goes to bed, Kendra says she is haunted by the April 21 U-turn along Highway 32.
"Every day, every day," Kendra said as she fought back tears, "Every day I feel like I failed her and I feel like I failed Kylie and Sophia."
Sophia, like Kendra, also wasn't there that night. She's Hanna Rhoden's first-born. She was staying the night with her father when the shooting happened.
Kendra thinks it was fate, a direct act of God, that kept her off Union Hill Road that night.
"Somehow God intervened because he knew one of us had to be here and why he chose me to be here, I don't know and I don't feel like that it was right because Hanna had so much. Those two little girls. They have to grow up without their mom now. So, every day I feel guilt," Kendra said.
Kendra also replays scenarios in her head of what she imagined happened that April night. Those scenarios have filled a new compartment in her mind, a basket of 'what ifs.'
"You still wonder if you could have changed things. What if there's just one more person there," Kendra questioned.
188 days later, she still hasn't found those answers. And, it's possible she never will.