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Ohio County Residents Are On Edge After 8 Family Members Are Murdered

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Now let's explore a community that was the scene of a grisly mass murder. Eight people, mostly family members, were all found shot to death execution-style last Friday in rural Ohio. Authorities have called the murders a sophisticated operation, but so far they haven't said what the motive may be. No arrests have been made. I spoke earlier to Chris Graves. She's been in Pike County covering the killings for the Cincinnati Enquirer. I asked her to describe this part of the country.

CHRIS GRAVES: It is a spectacularly beautiful place with rolling hills. It's in the middle of Appalachia. People own usually a lot of land. Lots of farming. Having said all that, sort of the ugly backdrop is the level of poverty here. Pike County has a community of about 28,000 people, and it is among the poorest in Ohio.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And the victims, they lived in trailers, right?

GRAVES: Yes, that's correct. They lived sort of about a half-mile from each other. This area still remains cordoned off.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You sat down with some of the surviving family. What's their reaction to this? What have they been saying?

GRAVES: You know, I think they're stunned. They're angry. They continued to say that they don't have any idea who would do this, why they would do this, what would precipitate such a brutal killing. They're immensely sad. I have yet to not run into anybody who doesn't know a member of this family. They either are sort of shirttail relatives, they went to school with them, they know them from work, they know them from the demolition derby. The church across from the crime scenes has been really a refuge and a safe haven for the family. I talked with the pastor. He said that the families gathered there on Friday after hearing about this, and he guessed that between 150 and 200 family members were inside the church.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What are members of the community saying? How have they reacted to this?

GRAVES: Nobody can believe it. Authorities are very tight-lipped about the investigation, but what they have said is they found three marijuana growth sites at the crime scenes. We don't quite know how big those operations are or, frankly, if they have anything to do with the killings here. I think people are a little surprised by the revelation that there were these marijuana growth sites. Having said that, marijuana is not new to this area, nor is opiates, nor is heroin, nor is methamphetamine.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: There's been a lot of speculation that this massacre is the work of possibly drug cartels, maybe from Mexico. There's been some suggestion that these cartels have been operating in this area for some time. What do you know about that?

GRAVES: I think that is absolutely being talked about here, and I think there's two factions. I think there's a faction that says, yeah, you know, we should really look at that. And I think there's another faction that says, that seems crazy. But the cartels have been tied to similar operations elsewhere in the state. There have been two marijuana operations in Pike County valued at an estimated $23 million, and they were tied to some kind of organized crime.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Has this torn at the fabric of this community?

GRAVES: I think it's rocked people. I think people are scared. The sheriff has said at least twice that if he were members of the Manley or Roden family, they should arm themselves, so I think that put people on edge.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Chris Graves is a columnist with the Cincinnati Enquirer. Thank you so much.

GRAVES: Thank you, Lourdes. I appreciate the time. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.