PIKETON, Ohio — A family murdered for no apparent reason evokes a lot of sympathy from a community.
Unless that family was dealing drugs.
Drugs are so prevalent in this rural swath of the country that highway signs provide drivers with a number to report impaired—not drunk—drivers.
So less than a week after this community rallied to support the families of the eight people shot to death in their beds by an unknown killer or killers on Friday, much of that support began to dry up on Sunday evening when the state’s attorney general revealed that the Rhoden family appeared to have been selling large quantities of marijuana.
Since then, donations to help cover the tremendous cost of burying so many people have all but stopped, according to Rev. Phil Fulton.
“Why not give to give someone a decent burial?” Fulton wondered aloud to reporters. “Don’t they deserve that?”
The cold-blooded massacre shocked Cincinnati restaurateur Jeff Ruby enough on Saturday that he offered a $25,000 reward for anyone who gave police information that led to solving the crime. On Thursday, Ruby rescinded the offer due to “recent complex criminal developments,” he tweeted.
All that small-town goodwill for the Rhodens sure didn’t last very long, but for the family of Hannah Gilley, who was engaged to Frankie Rhoden and was also murdered, Piketon’s goodwill never started.
“It’s all Rhodens, Rhodens, Rhodens, and everybody seems to forget about Hannah,” Patty Hammond, owner of the town’s only bar, told The Daily Beast on Wednesday night.
Hammond will host a fundraiser on Saturday for Hannah—a poker run since it’s motorcycle season as well as a party at the tavern with enough bands and booze to draw in riders from across Pike and Adams counties.
Hannah’s aunt and uncle have also been working on behalf of her grief-stricken parents to organize fundraisers to help with funeral costs.
A friend of Hannah’s walked into Piketon’s Riverside Restaurant on Thursday to post a flier for an upcoming fundraiser for the Gilley family. Sarah, who didn’t want to give her last name, was busy putting fliers up all around Piketon and nearby Waverly, advertising a $5 car wash on Saturday evening. Hannah’s parents, however, are laying low.
‘They’re trying to keep to themselves,” Sarah said. “They don’t want their words twisted.”
Members of the Gilley family couldn’t be reached today, but considering how small and sparsely populated this area is it’s not at all shocking to learn they are trying to stay out of the public eye—this is the biggest thing to happen in Piketon since, well, since Piketon became Piketon.
The Gilleys’ daughter had a wonderful sense of humor, her friend and former classmate Riley Pritchard said on Thursday as she idly smoked a cigarette—everyone here idly smokes cigarettes—in front of Piketon’s abandoned elementary school.
“She loved pets, and she loved being outside,” Riley said, adding Hannah was funny enough to make just about anyone laugh.
Perhaps due to the incomprehensible massacre, or the fact that it is not yet a week old, 19-year-old Riley still speaks of Hannah in the present tense.
“She’s a really nice girl. She’s very, very pretty too.”
Two men approached as she spoke, all rednecks and jailhouse tattoos and teeth stained by tobacco like a lot of other young men around here, and asked to borrow money for the cigarettes that sit in virtually every Pike County hand.
“I don’t have no money. My boyfriend gave me these cigarettes,” Pritchard told the pair of the dukes in her pocket. “And he’s saving his money for us to go on a date.”
The older of the two, who didn’t want to give his name, didn’t know much about Hannah, but said if you were the type of person to smoke weed or pop pills you had probably heard of the Rhodens, at least some of the younger ones.
“Tell you what, you buy me a pack of cigarettes and I’ll sit down right here with you and tell you all kinds of crazy stuff about them,” he said.
And just like that, the talk was back to the Rhodens.