PIKETON, Ohio (AP) — Eight members of the same family were shot to death in the head Friday at four locations in rural southern Ohio, authorities said. They warned surviving relatives and residents to be careful and said the killer should be considered armed and dangerous.
Three children, ages 4 days to 3 years, survived the grisly killings that left seven adults and a 16-year-old boy dead, said Attorney General Mike DeWine and Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader at an afternoon news conference.
Authorities said preliminary information indicates that none of the eight victims was a victim of suicide. DeWine said it’s possible more than one person was involved in the slayings.
Some of the victims were in bed, indicating they were shot while they were sleeping, authorities said. The victims were identified as members of the Rhoden family.
“It’s heartbreaking,” DeWine said. “The one mom was killed in her bed with the 4-day-old right there.”
A motive isn’t clear, authorities said.
A dozen Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents were called Friday morning to Pike County, an economically struggling area in the Appalachian region some 80 miles east of Cincinnati.
Goldie Hilderbran, 65, said she lives about a mile from where she has been told the shootings took place.
“I first heard about it this morning from our mail carrier,” Hilderbran said.
Hilderbran said the mail carrier told her deputies had stopped her from delivering mail in the area they had blocked off.
“She just told me she knew something really bad has happened,” Hilderbran said.
Gov. John Kasich, campaigning in Pennsylvania for his Republican presidential bid, said his office was monitoring the situation in Pike County.
“Reports we are receiving from Peebles are tragic beyond comprehension,” Kasich wrote on his Twitter account.
The FBI in Cincinnati also said it was closely monitoring the situation and has offered assistance to the Pike County sheriff’s office if needed.
Peebles High School imposed a precautionary lockout Friday morning after authorities notified the superintendent of shootings that had occurred a few miles away, according to Regina Bennington, secretary to the superintendent for the Adams County Ohio Valley Schools district.
High school officials said the school was back to normal operations later Friday morning.
Piketon is the site of a Cold War-era uranium plant that was closed in 2001 and is still being cleaned up.
Associated Press writers Dan Sewell and Lisa Cornwell contributed to this report from Cincinnati.