Dispatch sues Pike County coroner over Rhoden autopsy records

From The Columbus Dispatch The Columbus Dispatch filed a lawsuit Monday against the Pike County coroner's office, saying it is improperly withholding final autopsy records in the Rhoden family mass killing.

"We understand the sensitivity of this case, and we will act responsibly when we gain access to these public records," said Dispatch Editor Alan D. Miller.

"We believe that Pike County authorities, at the direction of the Ohio attorney general, are violating the law by refusing to release these documents."

On behalf of the public's right to know, Miller said, The Dispatch had repeated conversations with the authorities over many months — initially over preliminary autopsy reports — and sought a non-confrontational path to obtaining the public records.

"In the end, they virtually forced us to take legal action," Miller said. "We have great respect for those conducting the investigation, but we have seen no evidence that this would be disruptive to their case, nor have we seen examples of the release of such information affecting similar cases in the past." The Dispatch filed the suit in the Ohio Supreme Court.

In the suit, Dispatch Reporter Holly Zachariah said she began requesting the final autopsy reports for the eight Rhoden family members killed on July 22, the day she found out that the final autopsy reports were with the coroner. The Rhoden family members were killed April 22 in rural Pike County.

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