(CINCINNATI) — Residents of a rural Ohio community expressed their shock as police continued searching for a gunman who fatally shot eight relatives “execution style,” including a woman as she was lying in bed with 4-day-old baby.
Seven of the victims were found Friday in three homes along the same road in Peebles, a small village east of Cincinnati. The eighth victim was found later than the others in nearby Piketon, officials said.
Officials said Saturday the victims were all members of the Rhoden family.
Sharon Fulton, the wife of a pastor at the Union Hill Church, said some of the victims used to go to their church and that she was in contact with the victim’s family.
In this town “everybody knows everybody, almost,” she said. “When one hurts, we all hurt.”
Fulton said people living in the village “work for what they have.”
“They don’t have much because the jobs are scarce around here,” she said of Peebles, which had a population of 1,782 at the time of the 2010 census.
Fulton said the shootings were shocking “because you don’t hear that around here. It’s something you don’t hear of, especially with one family.”
“It’s sad,” she said. “We know the grandparents … they’re around our age. … What if that was my family? I don’t know how they’re handling this.”
Some of the victims appeared to have been killed in their sleep and were found shot to death in their beds, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said. One victim, who appeared to be a mother, was killed lying in bed with a 4-day-old baby, he said.
Three young children — the 4-day-old baby, a 6-month-old baby and a 3-year-old — were found unharmed at the various shooting locations, Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader said.
Officials said Saturday the investigation is “still in its early stages.”
While residents of the county “should not panic,” they should “be careful,” said DeWine. He said authorities have interviewed more than 30 people, though he declined to characterize any of them as “persons of interest.”
“There are different theories that we’re looking at,” he said.
Agents with the Ohio Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) were leading the ongoing investigation at the request of Pike County Sheriff’s Office, officials said. Numerous other law enforcement agencies from nearby counties were offering support.
“This is a devastating time for a family,” Reader said at a news conference Friday, noting the crime had shocked the rural community.
“We’ve never had a shooting with eight victims,” he said. “We’ll find who did this.”
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