Piketon murder scene pot grow operation

Past Pike County raid tied to Mexican cartel

DeWine not ruling out possible drug link to slayings.

It’s unclear if drugs played any factor in the Rhoden family slayings in Pike County or if the marijuana grow sites found at three of the crime scenes has any connection to Mexican drug cartels.

But evidence of Mexican cartel activity in Pike County has surfaced in the past, and much of the drugs that come into Ohio are trafficked from Mexico.

In August 2012, the Attorney General’s Office issued a press release saying BCE agents along with the Pike County’s Sheriff’s Office raided a grow site with more than 1,200 marijuana plants on a hillside off Hickson Road.

Investigators then said they found two abandoned campsites that they believed likely belonged to Mexican nationals. Authorities burned the plants estimated worth $1,000 to $1,500 apiece on the street.

In 2010, the Columbus Dispatch reported that 10 Mexican nationals were arrested at a 2,500-plant site in Muskingum County. A crack in the case came when the workers were followed there from yet another grow site in Logan County. It was suspected some of the would-be profits from those sites were destined for Mexico.

A major investigation by the Dayton Daily News last summer revealed that most of the drugs used in the United States — including marijuana and heroin — are trafficked by Mexican cartels. By 2012, 96 percent of the bulk heroin seized by law enforcement originated in Mexico or South America.

The amount of marijuana seized along the border, though, has fallen about 40 percent since 2011, though the reasons are not entirely clear. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, Mexico remains the most significant foreign source for marijuana in the United States, with seizures along the Southwest border totaling more than 984,600 kilograms in 2014.

• How Mexican drug cartels move heroin to Miami Valley street corners

• Heroin’s Impact: A special report from the Dayton Daily News

The Daily News’ investigation showed Americans spent about $65 billion a year on illegal drugs in 2013, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The U.S. Department of State estimated about $29 billion goes right back to Mexico. All the federal agencies combined seize approximately $1 billion in drugs a year, leaving the remaining billions for the drug traffickers.

On Monday, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said authorities investigating the multiple murders in Pike County were looking into “every tip, every lead, every shred of information,” including whether the murders have any ties to Mexican drug cartels.

“We certainly would not rule that out, but we’re not going to say that that is true,” DeWine said Monday.

Eight members of the Rhoden family Friday were all shot in the head, execution style.

BCI investigators found the marijuana grow sites among the four rural crime scenes.

Authorities in Montgomery County have not encountered any Mexican cartel-operated grow sites, according to Montgomery County Sheriff’s Capt. Mike Brem, commander of the Regional Agencies Narcotics and Gun Enforcement Task Force.

DeWine declined to specify the size of the grow operations found at the Pike County crime scenes or whether they were indoors or outdoors.

“I’m not going to quantify it. I’ll simply say it’s readily apparent it’s not for just their own use. This was done on a commercial basis.”

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