State's top court shields full autopsy reports in Pike Co massacre

State's top court shields full autopsy reports in Pike Co massacre
FOX19 NOW/file

COLUMBUS, OH (FOX19) - The state's top court ruled 4-3 Thursday that the Pike County coroner does not have to release unredacted autopsy reports from the unsolved slayings of eight family members in 2016.

Two newspapers, including FOX19 NOW media partner the Cincinnati Enquirer, separately sued for the full autopsy reports.

Authorities have said they want to shield the information and argued that its release could compromise the investigation.

Pike County Coroner David Kessler also has noted the victims' relatives raised concerns about sharing details of their loved ones' deaths.

The Pike County massacre is considered the state's most complex homicide investigation and remains unsolved.

Seven adults and a teenage boy from the Rhoden family were found shot to death at four homes near Piketon, in rural southern Ohio, on April 22, 2016.

The victims are: Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16, Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40, Clarence "Frankie" Rhoden, 20, Dana Rhoden, 37, Gary Rhoden, 38, Hanna Rhoden, 19, Hannah Gilley, 20, Kenneth Rhoden, 44.

A toddler and two babies were left unharmed: A 3-year-old, a 4-day-old found in bed next to her mother, Hanna Rhoden, and a 6-month-old.

Law enforcement officials have described the slayings as sophisticated, pre-planned executions.

Authorities suspect there were multiple attackers who were familiar with the victims' homes and the surrounding area. The motive remains a mystery.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine's office has said Christopher Rhoden Sr. had "a large-scale marijuana growing operation," leading some to speculate the killings were drug-related.

The victims were gunned down in the overnight hours April 21-22, 2016 while most of them slept.

All were shot to death and most of the victims, six, were shot three times or more.

One victim was shot nine times. Some also showed signs of soft tissue bruising.

A motive has not been disclosed. No suspects have been named.

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