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County needs help paying for trials in Ohio family massacre

February 7, 2019

Ohio’s attorney general thinks the state should cover the majority of the costs for prosecuting four suspects charged in the slayings of eight people.

While the trials are at least a year away, officials in rural Pike County estimate they’ll spend well over $1 million on the cases involving the 2016 killings of the Rhoden family.

State Attorney General Dave Yost said Thursday that he doesn’t want the costs to cripple the small county, which has an annual budget of $10 million.

“It’s a budget wrecker for a small town,” Yost said. “Justice shouldn’t be a matter of how much pocketbook you have.”

He feels the state should pick up all of the costs, outside of the salaries for those handling the case. But Ohio lawmakers will need to approve that spending.

The Legislature at the end of last year did agree to provide an initial $100,000 to help the county. Yost called the money a “down-payment” and said he expects there will be more money coming from the state.

Authorities in November arrested a husband and wife and their two adult sons on charges that include aggravated murder. All four have pleaded not guilty to charges that could bring the death penalty if they’re convicted.

Authorities have suggested a custody dispute between the two families was a possible motive.

County Prosecutor Rob Junk said Thursday that all four will be tried separately, which adds to county’s burden.

Ohio law requires defendants in capital cases to have two lawyers, both certified in handling death penalty charges. Each side must also hire numerous investigators and expert witnesses, who could cover everything from blood patterns to ballistics in each killing.

Pike County Commissioner Tony Montgomery said the county has spent more than $600,000 so far on overtime in the sheriff’s department, transporting the suspects to hearings and securing evidence such as the trailers and camper where the killings took place.