Rhoden family killings case deepens with confusion amid a flurry of probate court actions in Ohio. The nature of that action was not public Tuesday, but it likely signals months, if not years, of future court hearings and legal arguments focused on two primary questions left in the wake of the slayings of eight members of the Rhoden family on April 22.
Probate court proceedings are rarely simple and often fraught with family squabbles - even in the best of circumstances, KHOU reports. In this case, a criminal case is underway with no known suspects and no disclosed motive amid a swirl of supposition.
“This is certainly unusual. It’s rare to have multiple deaths at the same time,” said Bernie McKay, a probate lawyer at Frost Brown Todd who specializes in wills, estates and trusts. “This is going to be a very complex case with a lot of attorneys.”
The Rhoden family killings unveiled a massacre in four residences on family-owned property: Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40; his former wife, Dana Manley Rhoden, 37; their three children, Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 20, Hanna Rhoden, 19, and Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16; Christopher Rhoden Sr.’s brother, Kenneth Rhoden, 44; his cousin Gary Rhoden, 38; and Frankie Rhoden’s fiancee Hannah Gilley, 20.
Found alive and unharmed were: Kylie Rhoden, the 5-day-old daughter of Hanna Rhoden; Ruger Rhoden, the six-month son of Frankie Rhoden and Hannah Gilley; and Brentley Rhoden, the 3-year-old son of Frankie Rhoden. Hanna Rhoden’s older daughter, Sophia Wagner, 2, was with a relative the night of the massacre, the New York Daily News reported.
Sophia and Brentley remain in the care of relatives. Legally, a surviving parent usually takes custody of a minor child, which would likely be the case for Sophia and Brentley McKay said.
Ruger and Kylie remain in the custody of children and protective services, family members have said. Both of Ruger’s parents were killed. Leonard Manley, great-grandfather to both children, said he does not believe a father’s name is listed on Kylie’s birth certificate.
As the Rhoden family killings case deepens, family members have declined to discuss the case or the surviving children. Manley said he and his wife, Judy Manley, have hired a lawyer to begin the process to seek custody of the children. He declined to elaborate further.
In a surreal scene, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office moved the three trailers and one camper where the homicides occurred into a secure warehouse nearly two weeks ago to safeguard each as evidence. The acres of real estate where the trailers resided for years have been released to the family.
Dan Tierney, a spokesman for that office, said Tuesday it is too early to discuss the future of the Rhoden land or property. Who may inherit the parcels hinges on many unknowns to be determined both by federal and state law and judges, McKay said.
The first step will be to enter a will, if there is one, into probate court for each adult. If there is no will, an administrator would have to be appointed to execute the estate. Debts and court-related expenses would have to be paid to creditors first. Whatever is left would then go to survivors.
NewsBlaze said the case of the Rhoden family killings may still have unresolved problems with minors. Under Ohio law, a minor can not receive assets to an estate until they turn 18, McKay said.