The Rhoden Murders: The Point-Blank Execution Of A Family, By A Family

Em Carpenter

Em was one of those argumentative children who was sarcastically encouraged to become a lawyer, so she did. She is a proud life-long West Virginian, and, paradoxically, a liberal. In addition to writing about society, politics and culture, she enjoys cooking, podcasts, reading, and pretending to be a runner. She will correct your grammar. You can find her on Twitter.

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29 Responses

  1. Damon
    Ignored
    says:

    Was the murder site out in the country? Because even a suppressed weapon gives off a noticeable sound–likely loud enough to wake a neighbor. Over a dozen shots surely would. Neighbor being “suburban track house” distance.Report

  2. Oscar Gordon
    Ignored
    says:

    At the risk of sounding utterly crass, how many lives could have been saved if one girls had been on birth control, or, alternatively, if one boy had been prosecuted for statutory rape?Report

    • Reformed Republican in reply to Oscar Gordon
      Ignored
      says:

      Or alternately, if this family didn’t decide murder was the way to handle the situation.Report

    • Eddie Coyle in reply to Oscar Gordon
      Ignored
      says:

      Spot On. How many lives would be saved across the country if out of wedlock birth rates could be halved or quartered? They are directly related to the violence across the country and in particular in the cities, along with a host of other disfunction.Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to Eddie Coyle
        Ignored
        says:

        “They are directly related to the violence across the country and in particular in the cities…”

        Citation needed.Report

        • Dark Matter in reply to Oscar Gordon
          Ignored
          says:

          Out of wedlock is strongly related to single parent families.

          Poverty (and various other negative social ills) is strongly related to single parent families. If memory serves this is the single most predictive factor.

          [i]Children raised in single-parent homes are statistically more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, exhibit poor social behaviors, and commit violent crimes. They’re also more likely to drop out of school. [/i]

          https://www.heritage.org/marriage-and-family/heritage-explains/why-the-declining-marriage-rate-affects-everyoneReport

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to Dark Matter
            Ignored
            says:

            Strongly != directly in much the same way that correlation != causationReport

            • Dark Matter in reply to Oscar Gordon
              Ignored
              says:

              True. But using a time machine to airbrush me out of my kids’ lives would be a massive loss of resources and parental involvement.

              That’s everything from money to having a driver to robots and/or to charter school and/or sports.

              It’s hard to see how that wouldn’t be creating a massive negative effect on their lives and it’s easy to see how it’d be linked to all sorts of other problems.

              Now IDK how we’d confirm “correlation or causation”. Maybe look at families with an arrested parent and how they do after that or something (we’d have to adjust for all sorts of stuff so it’d be harder than it sounds).

              But intuitively having a second parent seems like a really big deal and the data we have strongly supports that.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Dark Matter
                Ignored
                says:

                Sure, but there is a big difference between “High cholesterol is a significant risk factor for heart disease” & “high cholesterol leads directly to heart disease”.

                So when it comes to single mothers, that might be a risk factor, but it is one that can be mitigated by a positive support network, educated parent, etc.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Oscar Gordon
                Ignored
                says:

                but it is one that can be mitigated by a positive support network, educated parent, etc.

                I’m not sure how my kids replace the impact of having me in their lives short of my wife getting remarried.

                One parent means we have a single source of failure with no backups. All of the weaknesses of that parent will be magnified and they will have a lot less time.

                Now it’s also true that this, like other social ills, will tend to be an indicator of problems as well as a creator.

                For example my sister-in-law is crazy enough that no one will marry her. If she had a kid, then there’s no way she’d allow a “positive support network” to exist without a court of law making her.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter
                Ignored
                says:

                The nuclear family as we know it is a very recent phenomenon.
                In “traditional” i.e. pre-industrial societies, the loss of one parent was very common, which is why extended families were the norm. The loss of a father would be mitigated by an uncle or older brother filling the role of breadwinner/ caretaker.

                I’m not sayin this is an achievable goal today, since people seem to prefer smaller families to begin with.

                But it points toward finding a modern industrial solution to a problem which was caused by modern industrial structures.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                But it points toward finding a modern industrial solution to a problem which was caused by modern industrial structures.

                Let’s see what happens in Sweden.

                In Sweden, Emma Fransson et al. have shown that children living with one single parent have worse well-being in terms of physical health behavior, mental health, peer friendships, bullying, cultural activities, sports, and family relationships, compared to children from intact families.
                https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single_parent#Impact_on_children

                The loss of a father would be mitigated by an uncle or older brother filling the role of breadwinner/ caretaker.

                I think the key word (used by you and Oscar) is “mitigated”.

                Modern Society does “mitigate” for the loss of a parent by making sure no one starves, and everyone learns how to read. This is pretty huge by primitive society standards.

                The problem comes when we expect a kid in this situation to be just as successful as one raised by good parents. That seems unrealistic even in theory. If it worked, then good parenting wouldn’t be having positive impacts.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter
                Ignored
                says:

                Which is another way of saying that there are proven ways to mitigate and lessen the harm of single parenthood because Swedish single families fare better than their US counterparts.

                What neither society has, is a method to eliminate single parent families. Maybe it can’t be done in a liberal society, we just don’t know.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                another way of saying that there are proven ways to mitigate and lessen the harm of single parenthood because Swedish single families fare better than their US counterparts.

                I think you’re deep into comparing apples to oranges.

                Sweden, with all of these support systems, and with a monocultural society, still observes that having only one parent is a serious handicap when compared to two.

                When society creates [good things for children] we should expect good parents to take more advantage of them than absent parents.

                We can “mitigate” but we can not “replace”, and we need to have realistic expectations for what “mitigate” means.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                At least in the pre-industrial West, fast remarriage was pretty common because living alone was nearly impossible able for everybody. There is also a lot ink spilled on how recent the nuclear family is. A lot of historians believe that the Western nuclear family is kind of old and can be traced back to the Middle Ages.

                A recent book, the WEIRDest People in the World, believes that the Catholic Church’s strong ban on cousin marriages did a lot to break up the extended kinship system in the West because everybody had to go further to find a spouse. It’s also why the West had orphanages to take care of children without parents. In more kinship based societies, there would be a kin to take them in.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Dark Matter
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                says:

                I’m sure if I dig around, I can find something that says that kids do better when they have active, loving grandparents in their lives.

                Both my parents are dead, my father in law is dead, and my mother in law is evil.

                The role of grandparents is filled by his great aunt and her partner.

                Should I make sure my son has a relationship with my evil MIL, or can we just say that having someone who is willing to fill that role in a positive manner is sufficient?

                This is the point Chip is making, that the role is more important than the label (father, uncle, family friend). Positive male role model who takes an active part in the child’s life.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Oscar Gordon
                Ignored
                says:

                the role is more important than the label (father, uncle, family friend). Positive male role model who takes an active part in the child’s life.

                Chip isn’t wrong, but the definition of “mitigate” is “make less severe, serious, or painful”. A bad situation will suck less. If we’re interested in true equality, i.e. the kid’s odds of success and fully realizing their potential are unchanged, well that’s not going to happen. I supply…

                1) Active/Positive Role Model
                Everything from letting the girls observe what I do, to driving them places, to talking with them and/or stepping in to correct bad behavior.

                This can be seriously time consuming. It’s possible for an uncle or family friend to replace me on this but highly likely they won’t be able to devote the same time. It’s highly likely we’re in diminishing returns here, i.e. cutting my time in half doesn’t cut the impact in half, but diminishing returns is not no returns.

                2) Income Stream

                I assume I’m in the realm of diminishing returns again here. But diminishing returns is not “no returns” and my Income Stream is not half the family income.

                3) Legal Authority equal to their mother.

                Having a second authority figure to evaluate things is why we have the courts separate from the police. Ideally the mother will never have a really bad idea or melt down or at least will be willing to listen to their partner. (And not die, go insane, have substance abuse issues, etc).

                The modern reality is two parents is hugely predictive of how successful the kids will be.

                On a side note, my expectation is with gay marriage existing, we’ll find out in a few decades that “two” matters a lot (to prevent a single point of failure and so on) and “male role model” not so much.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Dark Matter
                Ignored
                says:

                We are drifting away from the original point, that a single parent (specifically a single mother) is a risk factor versus a direct cause of violence.

                Also, what if the single parent is male?Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Oscar Gordon
                Ignored
                says:

                I was thinking more broadly than just “violence” and I’m not sure we’re disagreeing.

                a single parent (specifically a single mother) is a risk factor versus a direct cause of violence.

                It depends on whether you say “smoking is a serious risk factor for cancer” or whether you’re comfortable saying “smoking causes cancer”.

                Yes, technically this is all “risk factor” stuff; And yes, one hopes mitigation is possible (like smoking less); And yes, I know a 100+ year old smoker (and Obama came from a single parent home and did well);

                But the numbers are seriously grim. So grim that just saying “smoking causes cancer” is fine in a loose conversation.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Dark Matter
                Ignored
                says:

                I think we are quibbling about the details here.

                One thing to point out, from your Wiki link, is that the outcome is not about whether or not the parents are married, but the amount of time the parental figures spend with the child (and, likely, how co-operative those parents are).

                So a child living with a single mom who has a biological father who is active and spends time with the child, and who co-operates with the mother regarding rearing is going to do fine. Likewise, a step parent who is active will nullify the negative.

                Thus we can surmise that the negatives come from putting the bulk of the burden on a single parent, or having parents at constantly loggerheads regarding rearing decisions and activities. The more parental figures in play, and the more co-operative those figures are, the better the outcome.Report

              • Eddie Coyle in reply to Dark Matter
                Ignored
                says:

                I think we are on the same page, excellent breakdown how a different use of language can mean two thinks. Look, we all know that guy that smoked and drank a fifth until they were 100, we all know kids raised by single parents that did well… (and 2 parent homes that did not) but we know a LOT more people that smoked and developed cancer or emphysema, and heavy drinkers that developed cirrhosis, as well as children from single parent homes that did not benefit from the experience. Statistics show single parent homes are much more likely to present a range of dysfunction.

                I get your point specifically, without a doubt, if this girl had simply not had (2) children out of wedlock, 8 people would be alive.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Dark Matter
                Ignored
                says:

                Note: I grew up in a low cost day care center. Mom took in all kinds of kids from low income families, and many of them were single moms, or married but with fathers who were effectively useless as a parent or resource provider. We also had kids from families that had poor resources, but were committed to the kids (thus we had grandparents and aunts/uncles doing pickup and drop-off, etc.).

                From my anecdotal observations, the parent who was effectively going it alone had kids that were in much worse shape. Hell, just having mom working with the mother to provide a degree of consistency between home and day care did wonders for the kids. It’s that consistent, cooperative approach that is key. It may not take a village, but the more adults involved in rearing the child, who are in-sync, the better the outcomes.Report

  3. North
    Ignored
    says:

    This is horrifying/fascinating.Report

  4. CJColucci
    Ignored
    says:

    Em:

    It’s not clear to me whether solving this murder just took a while because it was hard or because the cops did a bad job investigating. Any insight? They could, of course, both be true.Report

    • Em Carpenter in reply to CJColucci
      Ignored
      says:

      I think it was both.
      I think the Wagners were on the list from the beginning, but there were a lot of angles to chase down. The drug rumors were true, as were the demolition derby rivalry and the prior altercation rumors. The family covered their tracks well and it took a while to gather enough evidence. Among the evidence: a receipt for shoes at Walmart matching prints at the scene and a photo of Angela buying them, silencer fragments in a well on a Wagner property, and finally, the clincher: shell casings on their property matching those at the scene. I’d really like to know how they determined they were all involved but it’s been very hush hush.
      There were some issues, too.. the trailer homes were towed away to a warehouse, which was found unlocked and unguarded. And then, the sheriff ended up indicted for unrelated corruption, which probably slowed things down.Report

  5. Mike
    Ignored
    says:

    For me, the minimum for justice, in addition to guilty verdicts and long sentences, is for the estates of all the Wagners involved to be sold off and divided equally, in trust, between the surviving Rhoden children. Special provision may have to be made for any Wagner children who were innocent, perhaps.Report

  6. LeeEsq
    Ignored
    says:

    Many of the older adults in this deadly saga were born about the same time I was give or take a couple of years. They were eighties and nineties kids just like me. Seeing how somebody born at around the same time and in the same country could have a totally different life experience based on circumstances of birth is just strange. I’m 40 with no spouse or kids and the slain 40 year old had an adult son. The vagaries of life are amazing sometimes.Report

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