Persons directly connected with the case had very little if anything to say regarding alleged misconduct by Pike County Sheriff Charlie Reader.
On Dec. 13, at the request of Pike County Prosecutor Rob Junk, Pike County Court of Common Pleas Judge Randy Deering approved a request to name a special prosecutor from the state auditor’s office “to serve in the investigation and any prosecution of a case involving misconduct by the Pike County Sheriff’s Office.”
An attorney in the office of newly elected Ohio State Auditor Dave Yost, Robert F. Smith will serve as a special prosecuting attorney in any case against Reader.
Both Reader and Junk – and actually also, Deering – have been much in the news recently as all three are involved in the ongoing prosecution of six members of the Wagner family in connection with the infamous massacre of six members of the Rhoden family in April 2016.
Reader has been involved with the investigation since the time the murders took place. Junk is, of course, serving as prosecutor in the case, while Deering has been the judge trying the various cases connected with the incident. Those cases are still all in their very early stages.
There is no public information at this point linking any investigation of Reader with the Rhoden case.
In his formal request for appointment of a special prosecutor, Junk first notes he has frequent contact with the county sheriff. His request, which was filed the same day it was granted by Deering, reads in part as follows: “It has been brought to my attention that there have been allegations of misconduct in office on the part of the Pike County Sheriff. Due to the working relationship and my status as legal counsel for the Office of the Sheriff, I am requesting the special prosecutor be appointed in this matter.”
In his filing, Junk notes Smith “has handled investigation and prosecution of many similar cases in the course of his duties with the Auditor of State’ s Office and would be the appropriate person to handle a case such as this and has further agreed to do so if appointed by this Honorable Court.”
“The Ohio Auditor’s office received a complaint about a Pike County matter and has opened an investigation,” said Auditor Press Secretary Beth Gianforcaro in a press release. She noted Smith is part of the Auditor’s Office Public Integrity Assurance Team.
“Because we have an open investigation, it is the auditor’s office policy to provide no further comment,” the press release concludes.
Asked for comment by phone, Gianforcaro simply referred to her press release. Attempts to reach Smith proved unsuccessful. Reader did not return a voicemail requesting comment. According to various media outlets, Reader has retained the services of a Chillicothe attorney, who also did not return a phone call.
The Rhoden case is scheduled to be back in court Thursday. One of the four persons directly charged with the six murders, Jake Wagner is scheduled to appear before Deering in a pretrial hearing.