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2 years since Pike County, Ohio slayings, surviving child lives with fear. 'He's trapped by it'


Bob Strickley and Carrie Cochran, Cincinnati Enquirerby Bob Strickley and Carrie Cochran, Cincinnati Enquirer, USA TODAY

Brentley Rhoden sits close to his mother on their couch. He rarely leaves her side, she says. His eyes are fixed on the TV and his hands wrapped around a PlayStation controller.

It's been two years since Brentley, then 3, opened the door of his Pike County home to his great-aunt, who found him physically unharmed in the middle of a gruesome scene.

Brentley slept in another room while Clarence "Frankie" Rhoden, 20, and his fianceƩ, Hannah Gilley were both shot to death with their 6-month-old son, Ruger, sleeping between them.

Brentley's grandfather, Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40; his grandmother, Dana Rhoden, 38; his aunt, Hanna Rhoden, 19; his uncle, Christopher Rhoden Jr. 16 were also killed in the planned attack.

His great-uncle, Kenneth Rhoden, 44, and a cousin, Gary Rhoden, 38 were also killed. The killings took place at three different scenes, all around the same time with 32 bullets fired into the eight victims.

It would spawn the largest homicide investigation in Ohio history. No one has been charged and authorities have not named suspects or a motive.

Outwardly, Brentley's a typical 5-year-old. But no one really knows what's going inside of him.

Chelsea Robinson, Brentley's mom, says he is still scared.

"He will not leave for a room if I am not in it," she says. "The lights have to be on and I'm trying to get him back sleeping in his own bed."

As Robinson explains her son's life, he's playing the video game Fortnite. His character is swinging an ax, smashing through walls.

"The fear has him. He's trapped behind it."

The little boy's mother is trying to dig him out.

The two of them stopped talking about what happened. The last nightmare Brentley had about the deaths was after their most recent chat about that night.

"Let someone else build that trust with him," Robinson says. He sees a professional every two weeks. She attends a support group.

"Everything was building up on us," she says. "Just getting it out there helps."

Robinson and Brentley lost a lot more than relatives. Robinson was best friends with Hanna Rhoden, and Dana Rhoden treated her like she was her own, she says.

"I was closer to them than I even was with my own family," Robinson says.

The mom and her blond-haired, precocious pre-kindergarten son have found a bit of a groove after moving around following the killings.

They've settled in a neighborhood in Southern Ohio surrounded by Robinson's family members. She says it provides a sense of comfort and safety having them around.

With Frankie Rhoden gone, one task has been finding a consistent male figure for Brentley. Some have come forward, including Frankie's best friend, but Robinson isn't overly concerned.

"A friend told me to get him a father figure to take him fishing and get him into the (demolition) derby," she says. "Well, I'm doing all those things with him already."

She describes her son as a little high-maintenance, into bath bombs and beef jerky.

Brentley turns off the TV and runs out of the room. He returns with "Stinker," a Guinea pig that resembles a skunk. He proudly shows he recently lost two front teeth. He's a ball of energy and seems to ignore the tough topics his mom discusses.

The second anniversary of the slayings is approaching, and the small family will be using the same approach as the first.

"I keep on moving on. I make it seem like it's another day," Robinson says, tearing up. "I hide my emotions, but eventually they pop out. I try to ignore that it's right around the corner."

She doesn't have any plans to attend anniversary events.

"Everybody asks how I'm doing and they are crying," at the events, Robinson says. "How am I doing? I don't want to talk about it."

At any rate, Robinson's free time is scarce. Between her job, having four different families (the Rhodens, Manleys, Gilleys and her own) to see, caring for Brentley, Stinker and for their three dogs, her plate is full.

"It's 100 miles an hour at all times," she says. "Four families to visit and now T-ball."

Brentley is asked how he likes school. He doesn't, but he belts out some of what he's learned in the nine weeks he's been enrolled.

He counts to 100 by 10s, to his mom's delight.

What are the colors of the rainbow?

"Red, orange, yellow, green, blue and puurrrrppllle!," he says in a crescendo.

How old will you be on your next birthday?

He extends five fingers on his right hand and slowly pokes one up upward on his left.

"He's making lots of friends," his mom says. "Every person at his school knows his situation. The counselor took me aside and asked me what to watch for."

Spring break expires the next day. Brentley is less than excited. Mom is relieved.

Brentley settles back on the couch next to his mom. Now he's playing a level of "The LEGO Movie" game in which the gamer builds parts of a city.

As if building new lives were that simple.

Anyone with information about the crimes is asked to call 1-800-BCI-OHIO (224-6446) or the Pike County Sheriff's Office at 740-947-2111.

Enquirer contributor Chris Graves assisted in this report.


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U.S. - U.S. Daily News: 2 years since Pike County, Ohio slayings, surviving child lives with fear. 'He's trapped by it'
2 years since Pike County, Ohio slayings, surviving child lives with fear. 'He's trapped by it'
U.S. - U.S. Daily News
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