WAVERLY, Ohio — The brother of one of the eight victims of an unsolved southern Ohio massacre made his first court appearance Wednesday on evidence-tampering and vandalism charges over allegations he destroyed a GPS tracking device placed on his truck by investigators.
Forty-year-old James Manley, of Peebles, appeared in Pike County Court, where a judge set an $80,000 bond.
Manley has been jailed since Tuesday after turning himself in. Media coverage of Wednesday’s hearing didn’t indicate an attorney was representing him.
Manley’s sister, Dana Rhoden, was killed in April 2016 along with six other adults and one teenager from the Rhoden family. They were found shot at four homes near Piketon, about 70 miles (113 kilometers) south of Columbus. Three children were found unharmed.
A search warrant indicated that investigators believe the truck driven by Manley was used in connection with an aggravated murder or by a person intending such a crime, but it doesn’t specify a connection to the Rhoden homicide investigation and doesn’t name James Manley as a suspect, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
The tracking device was placed on his truck on April 22 and the signal was lost six days later, the newspaper reported.
Manley’s father, Leonard Manley, who also lost three grandchildren in the massacre, told the Enquirer that his son and his eldest daughter were close and there is no way he could be involved in the killings. He said it seems investigators are “grasping at straws.”
Authorities have executed several dozen search warrants in the investigation. No arrests have been made, and family members have pleaded for anyone with information that might help solve the case to come forward.