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[00:00:00]

I'm Dr. Wendy Walsh, host of the podcast Mating Matters. I believe nearly every human behavior is motivated by a desire for love. I love the romantic endings. I believe in happy endings, sex.

[00:00:12]

Sometimes I find myself looking for reasons to have sex or to hedge your reproductive odds. I've always been very active in mating matters. We explore how our ancient brains are interacting with the modern world. Listen to mating matters on the radio app, Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to your podcast. In 1983, Diane Downs shot her three children, killing one and severely injuring the others. She showed up for her trial pregnant. Now, nearly 40 years later, that child, Becky Babcock, is on a journey to explore her connection with her mother's violent past.

[00:00:52]

Listen to Happy Face, present to face starting August 18. New episodes available every Tuesday on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcasts or wherever you find her favorite shows. Welcome to the PYKEN Massacre, a production of I Heart Radio and Qty Studios. I want to know if I want my dead.

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It was an unimaginable crime. There's blood all over the house. It was the second biggest mass murder in 2016 behind the Pulse nightclub shooting people dead all from the same family.

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It would become the largest criminal investigation in Ohio's history.

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Pike County sheriffs requested state help immediately after they got word in the early morning of April 22nd, 2016. Eight members of the rodent family were brutally murdered, shot to death execution style in their homes.

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Eight victims, 30 to gunshot wounds, three children left alive at the scene. This is the Pickton massacre. I believe that there was a shooter or shooters out there somewhere, wherever they are. They were trying to possibly wipe out this entire family. Episode one, Daddy's playing zombie. Piped in, Ohio is a rural town located on the Sahota River to 60 miles south of Columbus. It's home to 2200 residents. And the people of Picton say that because the town is so small, neighbors really look out for each other and treat each other like family.

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It was just it was a good, wonderful area to grow up in. It was we lived in the country and we rode horses on the road. We rode bikes to each other's houses. And we we played, you know, the kids. The neighborhood played together all the time.

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I slept the whole time I was a kid with my window wide open. There's no way you could do that now. There's no way this place was wonderful. Everybody took care of everybody and now it's. It's like a whole different place. The rodent family lived in pigeon for generations. In fact, this close knit family all lived within miles of each other and were beloved fixture in the community. It's part of what makes this story so heartbreaking and disturbing.

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Eight members of the rodent family, ranging in age from 16 to 44, were murdered.

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Each killed execution style over one night in four different locations. The only known witnesses, the three small children left alive at the scenes. The rodent family was literally being hunted. I'm Courtney Armstrong, a television producer who helped make a documentary about the case for NBC Universal's Oxygen Network in 2019, since it aired, the team and I at Katie's studios haven't stopped thinking about the case with trials on the horizon. There are new details and theories to explore.

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By all accounts, April 22nd, 2016, was an ordinary spring day in rural Pike County, but that would be far from the truth.

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Here's Barbara, long time pectin resident, I'll never forget that day, I'll never forget that day I had gone into the office at the high school to pick Britney up for an appointment.

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And when I walked in, they had a TV on and everyone in there was sitting with their mouths hanging open.

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And I was like, What's going on in here? And the secretary's said, my God, there's been a shooting. They said six people were killed and she said, we are very worried because little Chris Rowden didn't show up today and we think he might be one of them. Everyone was just in shock. So little, Chris, law enforcement, because they couldn't find him, there was some speculation early on that he might have been involved.

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For the residents of Pectin, there was little more than confusion at this point, people knew there was a shooting and that Chris Rowden Jr., the 16 year old freshman at Picton High, was missing. Where was the teen? It was at the home of Chris Rowden, senior, that the nightmare began.

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Chris Rowden, senior, was known to be a strong, hardworking family man. He was, you know, a great father. He was a good man, just like the rest of the guys, you know, in that family. He would do anything for anybody.

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He and Dana Roden were married for 22 years. And although they divorced, they remained close. So close that Chris Senior had recently bought Dana a home on the same road he lived on Union Hill Road. He did it so they could stay close to their children.

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Kristina's cousin, Gary Rowden, was more like a brother to him and often stayed at his place. Little Chris's aunt, Bobbie Jo, who also lived nearby, it was the first to make the gruesome discovery at 1749 a.m. when she came to feed the dogs at Christina's house.

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I was like, yes, I have done this 40 years. I need you to believe that who lost the love of my brother was dead. There's blood all over the house of my brother in law who has been the hell out of.

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Patriarch of the family, Chris Rowan was dead. He looked like he'd been beaten to death. His cousin Gary, who was staying with Chris, was also dead.

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And yeah, what's his name from his finger painting here? It looks like a dead heat. They're both dead. I think I said, look, I can't think, OK? Is there anybody else in the house? Not someone know was OK before we got here. But I have my family lying on the floor, and I need you to get out of the house and raise enough time for him, OK, to stay out of the house. Don't want anybody to anything, OK?

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Yeah. All right. We got deputies to my OK. I thank you. This 40 year old Christopher Rowden was the only one of the eight family members who were shot somewhere other than they had had multiple gunshot wounds to the head, torso, extremities. We found out, you know, the news broke overnight and saw the email, saw the alerts, you know, the initial news coverage. And I knew this was we all knew this was a big deal.

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James Pilcher is an investigative reporter who was assigned to cover this story. Chris and Senior may have been awake when the intruders came in. At least there's some indication of that. He was shot nine times, but he was shot in the forearm, which means which seems to mean that he may have raised his arm in defense. His cousin Gary got shot twice in the head and once in the face. And one was execution style and it had a muzzle stain.

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It was that close to his temple, even for a multiple murder scene. This stood out as being particularly violent. Wood fragments found on Chris's body indicate he was dragged through the house. Blood was everywhere. Was it a robbery or a serial killer or a random thrill kill? And if it wasn't random, why were these two men targeted? I spoke with Mike Allen, criminal defense attorney from Ohio, are you familiar? Are you able to talk about the scenes themselves?

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You know, if you look at it, it's all from the autopsy reports. Christina's autopsy report says that they believe that he was awake when he was confronted by at least one person with a gun.

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He got nine gunshot wounds and one of them apparently was a defensive wound to his right forearm that shattered the bone. He was also shot in the torso and cheek, according to that report. Then Christina's cousin, Gary, and they're all kind of related here. He was shot twice in the head and once in the face. One of the shots, reports indicate that the gun was pressed to the side of his head, leaving a gun powder mark. That's called a muzzle stain.

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I mean, those those kind of injuries leaves no doubt that this was an intentional or these all were intentional killings, kind of designed to send a message to someone.

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The muzzle mark sticks in my mind. You have to be obviously arm's reach. I mean, you are locking eyes with the victim, it would seem.

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Does that paint any kind of picture to or indicate to officers or attorneys anything?

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Sure does. And maybe even closer than arm's length. I mean, maybe just inches. That indicates that the shot was fired right on top of the person.

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And it indicates to me, at least, especially when you have the number of shots like that here, that somebody was trying to send a message. I don't think there can be any doubt about that. It's personal. I mean, it was personal.

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And I think that's what that demonstrates. We're going to take a quick break here. We'll be back in a moment. And I heart radio, we bring you the best podcasts from the biggest names, Ron Burgundy, Jack Chelsea Handler. Yup, Quest. Love him, too. And the one thing these shows have in common, they all started with an idea and now we want yours. We're looking to you for the next great podcast. Do you have an idea for a podcast?

[00:11:30]

Let's hear it. Any genre, any topic. We want your voice. Pitch us your show for a chance to share it with fellow podcast fans across the globe and become a part of the I Heart radio podcast family. Simply go to next great podcast Dotcom to get the details and submit your pitch in partnership with the creative platform toggle I heart radio will select up to 10 semifinalists and give them a thousand dollars to produce a pilot episode that listeners will vote on.

[00:11:58]

Their favorite to decide the next great podcast. The winning show will be made by our best in class production team and shared with listeners all around the world. Enter today at next. Great podcast, Dotcom. That's next. Great podcast, Dotcom. Why shouldn't the next great podcast come from you? I'm Dr. Wendy Walsh, host of the podcast Mating Matters. I believe nearly every human behavior is motivated by a desire for love, sex or to hedge your reproductive odds.

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I think women have this ability to plant these mental bombs into a man's mind.

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But the thing about humor is that the value of humor, it goes up. We're wired to reproduce.

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To them. It was a super female. It was a giant female, and they were lured into it to trying to mate with it.

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The science of love is fascinating. It's a bizarre form of biohacking, really. If you have the seven hour question, you are more likely to be involved in an affair.

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Yes, that's where some of the research gets really intriguing. There's so many ways to be a human, but I must say sex between three people can get complicated.

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In a nutshell, the Kinsey scale looked at two things sexual fantasies and actual sexual behavior. Listen to mating matters on the radio, Apple podcast or whatever. You listen to your podcast.

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At this point, Bobby chose these two people are dead by 12 gunshot wounds while waiting desperately for police to arrive. She makes her way over to her nephew, Francie's house. She wanted to get some help and to tell them what had happened to his father and uncle whose body she had just found. Frankie Rowden was Chris Senior and Dana's oldest son, the 20 year old was a father to two boys, three year old Brentley and six month old Ruger.

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Like his parents, Frankie was a hard worker. He loved fishing, hunting and demolition derby, but nothing so much as his family and his fiancee, 19 year old Hannah Gilli. An was on the homecoming court in high school, and at that time she told friends she planned to go to college, get a business degree and open a daycare. Frankie and Hannah wanted a lot of kids. They had a bright future. The young family lived together, just up the street from Chris Senior, also on Union Hill Road.

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They were looking forward to getting married soon. Here's reporter Jeff Winckler recounting the details of what happened that night based on his reporting.

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So after Bobbie Jo made the call to 911, she went to Frankie's house right nearby. And the person who came to the door was Francie's three year old son, Brentley. And Brentley was, as the police reports in the newspaper reports showed, he was covered in blood. And he, like any three year old, he sort of didn't fully understand what was going on. And he told his aunt that, you know, his father was playing zombie in the bedroom.

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And that's because the family were fans of The Walking Dead. So Brentley was in there with his father playing a zombie. Which is, you know, absolutely heartbreaking. Bobby picked up her nephew and made her way inside, she finds two more victims. Frankie was shot three times in the head. His fiancee, Hannah Gilli, was shot five times in total with one shot to her left eye. They were both in bed with their six month old baby.

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Thankfully, the infant was spared. Meanwhile, and this is all happening around 8:00 a.m. on April 22nd, Bobbie Jo calls their brother James. She's in hysterics. There's now two murder scenes, four people dead, 20 gunshot wounds, two children left alive at the scenes.

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James immediately goes over to his sister Dana's house to check on her and the remaining kids. Dana Rowden was a nurse known for her gregarious nature and loving smile. She'd met Chris Brown, senior, when she was just in high school, and it was love at first sight.

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Even though they divorced 22 years later, they remained very close. Together, the pair had three beautiful children, 20 year old Frankie Hanami and little Chris Good-Hearted, a lot of fun, you know, always laughing, cracking up.

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She was she was a very, very good person. She sent me a text. She said, my grandbabies here. And I said, well, congratulations. I said, she's beautiful. What did what did Hatami name her? She said, Kylie May. And I said, that's so pretty. And that was the last you know, the last thing I ever heard from Dana.

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This particular April seemed extra special because Hannum had just given birth to her second daughter five days prior. Just weeks before that, Dana threw him a big baby shower at their new house. The pictures from the shower show what a happy celebration it was.

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Sadly, James Dana's brother was about to enter yet one more unimaginable scene. Dana and her 19 year old daughter, Hannaman, were both dead. Like the rest of the family, they were shot execution style, Dana, three times and the right side of her head and once under her chin. Hannah was shot twice in the head, lying in bed with her newborn daughter, just five days old. The infant was buried alive and thankfully, Hannah's older daughter, Sophia, just two years old at the time, was not at the house at the time of the murders.

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This brings us back to Indiana Sun, the high school freshman, Chris Junior, was nowhere to be found. It took detectives several hours to locate him. But finally, little Chris was found in the home with his mother, Dana, and his sister, Hannah. He'd been shot four times in the head.

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There's now seven people dead, thirty one gunshot wounds and three children left alive at the scenes. The once small and sleepy town became the epicenter for a grisly crime and the subsequent complex murder investigation. When it was all said and done, two families would be destroyed and the town would never be the same. Here's Jeff Winkler. It was a long form article he'd written on the case that originally piqued our interest. I'm a writer and journalist based in flyover, so I cover a lot of stuff that happens away from the coasts.

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The Rodin case, I remember seeing coverage of it in 2016 as it was happening on live TV and there was a helicopter flying over the property. And it was just one of those things that seemed like it was straight out of Southern Noir. The crime is as complex as it is gruesome because all the victims, except for one, were found on the same sort of back road and Picton and they were all found gunned down on the same night and all had gunshots to the head.

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This was a incredibly well executed execution of several people.

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Here again is criminal defense attorney, former prosecutor and judge Mike Allen.

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Edit this area like a ton of bricks. I mean, the local media down here were all over this thing. I mean, like white on rice. So, yeah, it's a big deal.

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Do you have any theories? Because I've spoken to people and they're all, I guess, just theories. But why do you spare the children? Is that some line a killer won't cross or what does that tell you?

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Yeah, but and that's a really good question. I guess it shows that I don't know. The killers wanted to demonstrate that they have some humanity left in them and just would not kill infants. I guess that's small consolation, but I don't know, it probably is some kind of code thing. But they did find it within their hearts to spare the the infants and the children. You know, it's brazen and as violent as these killings were, I guess they just couldn't bring themselves to do it to small children and an infant.

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Yeah, a five day old.

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I mean, that's that's crazy. For the quiet town, the scene was unreal nearly seven hours after the first bodies were found at 126 p.m. on April 22nd, a final fatal discovery.

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Can I help you? Yeah, I need to go to 799 before, OK, all this stuff is going to lose. I just saw this guy with a gunshot wound to my OK, sad about it that I was going to be there right now from Donald so soon. So yeah. Understand. What do you think after I wrote it. OK, so right out of the house. I'm out of the house right now. I just want it's all or nothing and then pick up an old gunshot wound.

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OK, so we're going to get ready to go out there to you, ok. All right, Tegmark. A few miles down Union Hill Road was Chris Rogan senior's brother, Kenneth, the 44 year old was shot once through his right eye. Kenneth's cousin, Donald Stone, went to check on Kenneth after hearing about the murders of their six other family members, he had failed to hear from Kenneth that day. Here's Chef Winkler.

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There were a lot of breaking news moments during the first day, and the details just kept piling up and piling up. And more police, more law enforcement would show up and the body count got larger and larger.

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And then I think the real sort of twist in the real sort of what the heck is happening moment was when, you know, nearly seven hours after the first bodies were found at around one p.m., there is finally another body of Kenneth. And he was found as well as the others, you know, shot execution style. And in this case, he was covered with dollar bills that were strewn about his body. And it's just sort of you just can't you can't make this up.

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Let's stop here for another quick break. We'll be back in a moment. Have you ever wondered if Will Ferrell likes to wear his I voted sticker, I'll even wear it until the next day just to ask with people who are what makes Stephanie Ruhle so passionate about voting? It's super important. It's about what kind of country, what kind of world you want to live in. Hi, I'm Holly Fahri and I'm hosting a new podcast called Why I'm Voting.

[00:23:55]

You'll hear from Chelsea Handler. So my dad loves to talk about voting and talk about politics nonstop. And then I realized my father had never participated in any election. And Jason Petty, also known as propaganda. That's how democracy failed. You know, that's how our system failed.

[00:24:15]

Is everyone assuming somebody else and other really interesting guests join me and all these amazing voters on why I'm voting? A new podcast from my heart radio available on the I Heart radio app at Apple, podcasts or wherever it is you listen. What if you can learn from one of the world's most inspiring women now you can introducing Senecas One hundred women to hear a new podcast brought to you by Seneca Women and I Heart Radio in partnership with PNG. I'm Kim Mazzarelli.

[00:24:49]

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of American women getting the vote, we're bringing you the voices of a hundred groundbreaking and history making women. Starting August 18th. You can listen to Senecas one hundred women to hear on the radio, Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. By the time officials released the names of the victims, Picton residents were reeling, you know, they had snuck in in the night and committed these murders and nobody had a clue about, you know, who or why.

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And that's really scary.

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There were rumors about who had done the crime everywhere online in the coffee shops. You know, amongst the police. I mean, everyone was talking about who could have done it and why they would have done it. Within two days of the murder, officials make another shocking announcement mimolette very gently. Sheriff, thank you very much.

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This is Mike DeWine, the attorney general of Ohio, at a news conference on April 24th, 2016.

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Let me go ahead and I think it's OK for us to confirm that we did find marijuana in three three locations. Well, it grow operations. Here's Jeff Shane, we work together on the case, and he reached out to Jody Barr, an investigative reporter who is working in Cincinnati at the time of the murders.

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Let's run through some of the theories like what people were saying might have happened. So there were a lot of theories.

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Jodi has followed the crime and investigation for years. We got all of these tips in and we're trying to make sense of these tips, vet them, see if there's anything that could indicate who did it, why they did it, what caused someone to kill eight people of the same family. So the one theory that sort of became the prevailing idea of what might have happened here was the drug cartel theory. And that came about because hours after the murders, the attorney general, Mike DeWine, and Pike County Sheriff Charlie Reeder, standing at a press conference in Darwin, tells the public that they found commercial grow operations at three of the four crime scenes.

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Another theory was that the murders could have been the result of a dispute with another family in the area. Here's Jody Barr again.

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We had gotten word that apparently Chris Junior had some sort of road rage or some sort of incident with another family in the area some days before this. And there were some messages, social media messages exchanged that could have indicated a possible motive. So that was one theory as I got on the ground over there. And you started talking to some of these family members and you talked to some of the neighbors, some of the people who knew the rodents, it became clear that either people knew or had a very good idea about what happened, but they absolutely would never say it, because I think they were they were afraid because at that point in time, whoever did this had not been arrested.

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There have been no persons of interest named. So, you know, if you lived in that area, man, it was hush hush. You were just kind of walking around, looking over your shoulder and seeing some of these people not knowing who could be next, who did it.

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This is, again, Jeff Winckler, the majority of those theories rested on, you know, as a cartel, it was a cartel hit because the family was growing marijuana on their property, you know, was a day rival marijuana farm in the area. Was it where the killings related to the family disputes that were going on with various members of adjacent families and no one no one quite knew, but they all had a bunch of theories. With the town living in fear, investigators worked around the clock to bring the killers to justice, Mike DeWine is and again, I know him, but he's not a friend or anything, but he really is a professional and he was a professional prosecutor.

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I mean, that's how he started his political life. And he ran this thing like a prosecutor or a law enforcement officer would. And I'll tell you what, there is just no way that the the sheriff's office or the prosecutor's office up there could have handled this thing by themselves. And that's no knock on them. It's just that they don't have the resources for something like this.

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There were in some of the news conferences, Sheriff Reider, without telling people to arm themselves as a precaution in a small county like that.

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And just that the horrific nature of these things, I don't know that that would have not been good advice. I mean, obviously, they'd have to do it legally with a concealed carry license, the legal right to carry a firearm. But people just didn't know what the heck was going on up there. I mean, you had all the different theories bouncing around and it's a rural county up there. So if I were living out there and I was legally able to carry a firearm, I think I would.

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For two years, not a single arrest was made. How could the largest massacre in Ohio's history with so much blood, so many bullets and so many victims still be unsolved, the questions abound.

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Who's doing this? Is it many people? Is it one? How did they get away with it? If the scene was so messy, how did they clean up? The four crime scenes all had dead bodies, but the images were different. Chris and Jerry's was the most violent and bloody. Two of the other ones had children left alive. And in the fourth. Kenneth was found with dollar bills all over him, with the victims all being shot at close range.

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We know that the killers and victims were eye to eye.

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How did nobody hear anything? Could it be a cover up? And would another family be next? And then on November 13th, twenty eighteen, well, good afternoon, we finally got an update on the case.

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We promised that the day would come when an arrest would be made in the Pike County massacres.

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This is Mike DeWine, the state's then attorney general. He's at a press conference yesterday.

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A Pike County grand jury indicted four individuals for aggravated murder with death penalty specifications for allegedly committing this heartless, ruthless, cold blooded murder.

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For the town of Piken, with the alleged killers behind bars, the nightmare may have been over, but the mystery has just begun. Who is this family of alleged killers? Next time on the Python massacre. Paten, Massacre's executive produced by Stephanie Lydecker, and me, Courtney Armstrong, editing and sound design by executive producer Jared Asten Additional producing by Jeff Shane and Andrew Becker. The Python massacre is a production of I Heart Radio and Katie Studios from our podcast From My Heart Radio.

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Visit the I Heart Radio app, Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to your favorite shows. And I heart radio, we bring you the best podcasts from the Ron Burgundy show to the Breakfast Club to stuff you should know really all of today's biggest names. But each of these shows started with an idea and now we want yours. We're looking to you for the next great podcast. Simply go to the next great podcast, Dotcom, to get the details and submit your pitch will select up to 10 semifinalists and give them a thousand dollars to produce a pilot.

[00:33:16]

Then listeners from across the world will vote on their favorite to decide the next great podcast. Enter today at next. Great podcast, Dotcom. That's next. Great podcast, Dotcom. Why shouldn't the next great podcast come from you? In 1983, Diane Downs shot her three children, killing one and severely injuring the others, she showed up for her trial pregnant. Now, nearly 40 years later, that child, Becky Babcock, is on a journey to explore her connection with her mother's violent past.

[00:33:55]

Listen to Happy Face, present to face starting August 18. New episodes available every Tuesday on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcasts or wherever you find her favorite shows.