Rhoden massacre, unsolved Kenton County killings share multiple similarities

‘I think law enforcement would have been remiss, given the similarities between both cases, had we not looked for a connection’

Rhoden massacre, unsolved Kenton County killings share multiple similarities

KENTON COUNTY, KY (FOX19) - FOX19 NOW is investigating an unsolved, execution-style murder that happened just weeks before eight members of the Rhoden family were killed in Pike County.

It happened April 8, 2016. Carolynn Tomlinson and Charles Doug Eapmon were brutally murdered -- shot execution-style in their Elsmere home. Their children were spared. About two weeks later, the Rhoden family massacre took place, another case in which the children were not killed.

Now, with six arrested in Pike County, Kenton County Commonwealth Attorney Rob Sanders says there’s reason for renewed hope for the families in Elsmere.

"It's still very much an active, ongoing investigation,” said Sanders.

When the Pike County murder story broke in 2016, it was impossible to deny the similarities.

"I don’t know of any connection between the two but you have multiple murders, you’ve got somebody in our case that’s got a criminal history that involves narcotics trafficking activity,” said Sanders. “I think law enforcement would have been remiss, given the similarities between both cases, had we not looked for a connection.”

There are eerie coincidences he said, but nothing concrete to connect the two.

Large-scale marijuana growing operations were found on the Rhoden family properties, but Governor-elect Mike DeWine said drugs were merely an undercurrent in the Rhoden murders.

Sanders said Doug Eapmon served time in prison and had a criminal history involving narcotics trafficking, like the major sting around Thanksgiving Day 2010, when agents found 16,000 doses of oxycodone, which was valued at $500,000.

“I would be willing to wager, that law enforcement in Ohio, knew who was responsible for those killings long before the charges were filed,” said Sanders. “And I think that’s probably a similar situation that we’re dealing with here in Elsmere, that we’re working to get enough evidence.”

Neighbor Trisha O’Donnell said in 2016: “I was looking out the window cause I was just scared that they’re going to come back.”

It was that kind of widespread fear that gripped both communities, not knowing who might be next.

Eapmon and Tomlinson were discovered by family members living in the Merravay Drive home. Tomlinson had four children, who were all unharmed, but home when the couple was murdered.

"I think Pike County is a good example of what can happen when law enforcement is tenacious and they just keep after their suspects, until finally they get enough evidence to go forward. Often times, not speaking to the Elsmere case specifically, but often times, in these ongoing major investigations, the police officers have a very good idea who was responsible, and who did the actual killing, who will eventually be charged, it's just a matter of coming up with enough evidence to support those charges in a court of law, and that's what I suspect was the major break in Ohio,” said Sanders.

Sanders said he’s met with detectives from multiple agencies within the last couple weeks, running down new leads.

"There have been ongoing witnesses that have been interviewed and the leads that have been explored, we haven’t charged anybody yet,” said Sanders.

DeWine said the day the Wagners were arrested, “something” happened that gave them the missing link they needed to arrest them in connection to the Rhoden murders. It’s still unclear what that something was.

Sanders would not get specific about what their new leads are either, but he did say there is one thing both crimes will share: the killer or killers, will be brought to justice.

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