When the media received heavily-redacted autopsy reports involving the eight members of the Rhoden family, killed a year ago at three locations in Pike County, some media outlets were not happy with all the black lines.
As a result, two Ohio newspapers, the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Columbus Dispatch filed legal action to have the autopsies released unredacted.
On Wednesday, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled it wants to have a look at the autopsies with nothing redacted. The court ordered the Pike County Coroner to give the court access to the reports within two weeks for their review behind closed doors.
The Associated Press said the court would receive the autopsies under seal, but won’t consider additional materials about why authorities want to continue withholding some of the information.
“Everybody knows they’re murders by gunshot,” Dan Tierney, a spokesman for Attorney General Mike DeWine, said. “At issue here is details about the murders which are only known by investigators and perhaps the killers, and whether that information should be released to the public.”
DeWine and Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader held a news conference last week marking the one year anniversary (April 22) of the execution-style shootings that claimed the lives of eight members of the Rhoden family on Union Hill Road and Left Fork Road in Piketon. At the news conference, Reader reiterated he believes the murders were done by people in the local area and he said he believes they are still there.
“I feel they are local to the community. I have that belief,” Reader said
DeWine’s office has said Christopher Rhoden Sr. had “a large-scale marijuana growing operation,” leading some to speculate the killings were drug-related according to the AP.
The court on Wednesday ordered the Pike County coroner to submit the reports within two weeks for justices to review outside of public view. The court said it would receive the autopsies under seal but won’t consider additional materials about why authorities want to continue withholding some of that information.
The case has been returned to the regular docket.
According to the official document from the ruling, Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justice Terrence O’Donnell, would grant the motion in full and permit the respondent to file both the unredacted reports as well as additional material explaining the reasons for the proposed redaction. Justice Judith French and Justice R. Patrick DeWine were not participating.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewisPDT.