‘The Piketon Family Murders’ shares the story of the Rhoden family with audiences

March 29, 2019

April 22, 2016, eight members of the Rhoden family were found murdered, execution style, in their homes in Pike County, Ohio. For two years, rumor after rumor circulated as to who the killers were as the largest criminal investigation in Ohio’s history unfolded. Finally, in November 2018, four members of the Wagner family, a prominent Pike County clan, were arrested and charged with the murders.

Once the trials are over, I have no doubt that “Dateline” will devote an episode to the case. But Oxygen has decided not to wait that long with the airing this weekend of the two-hour special, “The Piketon Family Murders.” And even though the special has quite a few holes since there are so many things we don’t know yet, it still proves to be incredibly compelling.

The special picks up right from the beginning with a family member’s frantic 911 call. We then go through the investigation and the chasing down of every lead and rumor, including a Mexican drug cartel being involved and the possibility the family member who called 911 was the culprit. We hear from the Rhoden’s pastor, a family friend, and a surviving relative, as well as residents of Piketon who help advance the story and give us an idea of what it was like for the community during the frightening time after the murders. There are no interviews with investigators, since the case is ongoing, so it’s up to a pair of journalists to help fill in information. Host Beth Karas acts as our guide.

The shadowy reenactments are a little disturbing, but overall the special is very well done. If you’re a follower of the case, you know most of the details, but you may not know the Rhoden family. That’s where the special excels by showing us who the victims were through the eyes of the people who knew and loved them.

Not a lot of time is spent on the Wagners and their possible motives, but that’s because the story is still unfolding. No doubt Oxygen is already planning a sequel.

“The Piketon Family Murders” premieres at 7 p.m. Sunday, March 31, on Oxygen.

Angela Henderson-Bentley writes about television for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact her at ahenderson-bentley@hotmail.com.