Why the Rhoden Family Had So Many Cars
Christopher Rhoden Sr. stitched together a patchwork of jobs, including reselling cars he bought at auctions and from private sellers throughout Ohio and neighboring states, his father-in-law Leonard Manley and a family friend say.
He also hauled gravel for various companies around rural south-central Ohio, built decks, fixed roofs and did excavation work for Big Bear Lake Family Resort in Lucasville.
That's why, Manley said, Rhoden had so many cars and other equipment on his property, which authorities have spent weeks towing as part of their investigation into the Rhoden family slayings on April 22. Seven members of the Rhoden family and a fiancee were shot to death, many while they slept in their trailers on Union Hill Road and in a camper on Left Fork Road.
A family friend also said Rhoden, who was 40, wanted to get into the used car business and therefore bought "all of those cars."
Sean Hart, a 19-year-old friend of siblings Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16, and Clarence "Frankie" Rhoden, 20, said he'd gone with Christopher Rhoden Sr. four or five times since fall to buy vehicles, including once to Michigan and once to West Virginia. He said Rhoden would go to the bank, withdraw cash needed to buy a vehicle, go get it and haul it back. Hart said he was not involved in the purchases and only accompanied the elder Rhoden on trips.
"I only went to keep him company," Hart said.
Chris Rhoden Sr. was the father of Chris Rhoden Jr. and Frankie Rhoden. All three were among the eight victims.
Dan Tierney, a spokesman for the Ohio Attorney General's Office, declined to discuss the inventory of cars and equipment hauled from the Rhoden property. He would only reiterate removal of the vehicles is part of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation's largest investigation to date.
He wouldn't say how they might factor into the investigation or if they will be seized for possible forfeiture, which is what Manley said he believes will happen.
No one has been arrested in connection with the eight homicides, and authorities will not discuss if there are suspects. Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents have questioned some members of the Manley family on different occasions, including as recently as Monday.
'You couldn't hide nothing like that'
Manley said he's not sure authorities have removed all the vehicles Rhoden had on the property.
"It was ungodly what they hauled out of there,'' he said while sitting on the back of a broken-down pickup near his home along Union Hill Road, which authorities re-opened to traffic Monday. "All you had to do was drive by, you couldn't hide nothing like that.
"Look around, there and there,'' he said, pointing to several cars and trucks parked on his own property. "Just because you have cars sitting on your property doesn't mean you are a drug dealer. People are just like that here."
It is not unusual here to see cars, in various stages of disrepair, parked in front yards, side yards and backyards. Several friends and acquaintance of the Manley and Rhoden families said they were adept and highly skilled in mechanics.
In this area of southern Ohio, jobs are sparse and more than a quarter of residents live in poverty. So fixing up cars, equipment and other machinery, or bartering for those services, is not unusual.
Authorities have said they found marijuana grow sites at three of the four homicide locations, as well as evidence of cock fighting. Manley maintains he does not know anything about any marijuana growing, saying Monday he did not often visit Rhoden's properties.
"I didn't have no reason to go down there,'' he said.
Killed on April 22: Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40; his former wife, Dana, 37; their three children, Clarence "Frankie,'' 20, Hanna, 19, and Christopher Jr., 16; Christopher Rhoden Sr.'s brother, Kenneth, 44, and his cousin Gary Rhoden, 38; and Frankie's fiancee Hannah Gilley, 20.
Dana Manley Rhoden was Manley's daughter.
A family business?
Dana Rhoden had recently reconciled with her ex-husband, who bought the property where she was living with daughter and son Hanna and Chris Jr. for $60,000 on March 21, according to Scioto County property records. She posted photos of her living room on Facebook the next day.
A month later she would be found dead in the trailer, along with Hanna and Chris Jr. Hanna's 5-day-old daughter Kylie was found alive.
Dana Rhoden also used Facebook to sell cars, her father said. He said she would make about $200 from each car she sold. She also worked as a nurse's aide at Hillside Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Peebles.
Manley said he would help Chris Rhoden Sr. repair cars he bought at auctions. Often, he said, the cars wouldn't need a lot of work and were not difficult to fix and resell for a tidy profit.
Other times, Rhoden would rely on area body shops. "He took them all over creation to get them fixed,'' Manley said.
Just this year, Manley drove cars to Columbus, Jackson and Cincinnati to be inspected and to get the necessary paperwork so they could be resold.
He said he was paid $50 for each trip.
"Let me ask you: If you take a car you bought for $1,200 and put in a few hundred dollars and it ends up being worth $8,000, wouldn't you do it?" Manley asked.
Who owns the cars?
Many of the cars did not belong to Chris Rhoden Sr., Manley said.
Bobby Jo Manley, Dana Rhoden's younger sister, said she had four vehicles on Chris Rhoden Sr.'s property and she believes all were towed. Some of the vehicles would have been brought to Rhoden Sr. to be repaired, but for whatever reason the work was not completed or the person didn't pick their vehicle up, she said.
When shown photos taken of dozens of cars parked in a fenced area outside the Ohio BCI's command center in Waverly, Manley pointed to many he recognized and identified as belonging to Rhoden Sr. Several dump trucks were used by Rhoden Sr. to haul gravel, Manley said.
A car with bicycles on the roof? That belonged to Bobby Jo Manley. One dump truck, Manley said, belonged to Rhoden's late father, Clarence.
"I think they are going to get in trouble when they run all those VINs,'' he said. "They are going to find some of them ain't even Chris."
Anyone with information about the crimes is asked to call 1-800-BCI-OHIO (224-6446) or the Pike County Sheriff's Office at 740-947-1111.
This article originally appeared on Cincinnati.com.