An Inside Look at the Rhoden Family Murders

the entrance to the house closed with the yellow tape

Written by Laura Pettler, Ph.D., LPI

Last week on The Dr. Oz Show, we tackled the murders of the Rhoden Family in Pike County, Ohio. On the night of April 22, 2016, eight members of the Rhoden family were murdered in their homes across four crime scenes. While eight murders “at one time” meets the general definition of mass murder, my overarching opinion was that they were actually individual murders most likely committed by more than one offender at the same time. Not including serial homicide, generally speaking, murder is conflict resolution for the offender or offenders. Let’s take a closer look at the Rhoden family murders and my unofficial profile of the killer or killers.


An Inside Look at the Allergy Medicine Murder Case

Colored pills, tablets and capsules

Written by Laura Pettler, Ph.D., LPI

Could allergy medicine be responsible in part for the tragic murder of Rebecca “Becky” Apodaca on February 1, 2017? I’m not a medical doctor, so check out the show for what Dr. Oz has to say about over-the-counter (OTC) allergy medication taken in large quantities, but instead let’s focus on the forensic criminology aspects of this case.


How Anna LeBaron Escaped From a Polygamist Cult

Young woman in dark building walkway

Known as one of the most infamous cult leaders in American history—Ervil LeBaron had 13 wives, and more than 50 children—told followers he was “God’s Prophet” and was wanted by the FBI and the Mexican police for over 20 murders.

In the 1970s and 1980s, he ordered the deaths of dozens more of his religious rivals. Because of this, he was called the “Mormon Manson.” Even after his arrest in 1979, he sent out hits from his prison cell for his henchmen to continue to kill remaining rivals. Even now, former members of his cult still look over their shoulders.

In today’s exclusive, we are sitting down with Anna LeBaron, one of his numerous daughters who endured abandonment, horrific living conditions, child labor, and sexual grooming to discuss how she escaped her violent father and his cult.

Growing up in Colonia LeBaron, Mexico, a fundamentalist Mormon colony six hours south of the New Mexico border, Anna LeBaron rarely felt safe.

She didn’t play hopscotch with her school friends at recess or watch The Brady Bunch on television with her siblings. Her mother didn’t pack her school lunch and her dad didn’t give her a hug at the door wishing her a good day. Instead, her parents, who were on the run from federal authorities abandoned her in Mexico, leaving her with a family she didn’t know. She was separated from her mom, Ervil’s fourth wife Anna-Mae Marston, and shoved in a dirty safe house with other sect kids.

“We were taught that we were being persecuted because we were God’s chosen people and that the world outside didn’t understand us,” she said.

Even though she had grown up in polygamy, she had no idea of the truth: she was auditioning as a potential wife.

Her father had promised her to a man named Rafael. If Rafael, a recent convert to her father’s polygamist sect, was still in favor with him when the girls reached marriageable age—typically 15—it would happen. She and her sisters and were pawns to be auctioned off to the highest bidder, those followers willing to do whatever her father asked, no matter what it involved.

At age 13, just two years away from her arranged marriage,  she managed to escape with the help of former cult members, Lilian and Mark. But they didn’t know that Ervil had drawn up a list of traitors in prison—The Book of the New Covenants—and that Mark’s name was on it.

A Closer Look at the Turpin Family’s Dark Secrets

Danger on the street. Blue flasher on the police car at night.

On January 14, 2018, a 17-year-old girl escaped her family home in Perris, California and called 911 to report that she and her 12 siblings were being held captive by their parents, 49-year-old Louise Turpin and 56-year-old David Turpin. When police arrived they found several children shackled to their beds with chains and padlocks, and they appeared to be “malnourished and very dirty”.


The Girl in the Cage: How Michelle Stevens Survived a Horrific Childhood

crime scene tape with blurred forensic law enforcement background in cinematic tone and copy space

When we explore True Crime stories—I’m always amazed and inspired by the strength and resilience of the human spirit. But Dr. Oz and I’ve never been more inspired than when we met Michelle Stevens.

Most survivors of this level of trauma, violence, and crime cope by numbing the pain through drugs. So it was remarkable to meet a survivor who used her past as a case study for her doctorate thesis.

To appreciate who Michelle Stevens is today, we must go back to the beginning.


Inside NXIVM: The Self-Help Group Where Women Are Branded and Recruited as Slaves

Coach and support group during psychological therapy

Today, we’re digging into a ‘self-help’ sorority that allegedly requires naked photos for admission, brands members with a medical instrument and urges them to follow a near-starvation diet. These are the shocking allegations I’ve recently learned about a group that’s long been at the center of controversy. That group is NXIVM. Based in Albany, it was founded in 1998 by Keith Raniere, promises to take participants on a journey of personal discovery and development. Some former followers claim the man who sells enlightenment is really pitching something else, so I travel to upstate New York to investigate.


Sharon Tate’s Sister Reacts to the Death of Charles Manson

crime scene tape with blurred forensic law enforcement background in cinematic tone and copy spaceOn the surface, the Manson Family appeared to be happy, peace-loving hippies, yet despite their harmless demeanor, they were responsible for the murders of nine innocent people. Their leader, Charles Manson has been called, “the most dangerous man alive.” The most famous of the Manson killings was starlet Sharon Tate. The slaying of the movie star shook Hollywood to its core and left the county in fear—marking the end of the 60’s love-and-peace era.


The Cheerleader and the Hitman: Is It Ever Okay to Kill?

crime scene for vehicle search protect by yellow caution tape

After 30 years, infamous cheerleader Cheryl Pierson Cuccio is finally breaking her silence about why she committed this horrific crime.

In 1986, Cheryl was a 15-year-old popular teenage cheerleader who was being sexually abused by her father. No one, not even her boyfriend, now husband Rob Cuccio, knew about the abuse she was subjected to daily. Cheryl suffered in silence in fear that her father would make good on his threats and kill her if she ever told anyone.

“My father used to threaten me on a daily basis. He would say he’d kill me and kill anybody I ever told. I believed him”, she says.


Deadly Texts: Can Words Kill?

smart phone

Conrad Roy was just 18 years old when he took his own life. His suicide sparked a nationwide conversation because a court found his girlfriend, 17-year-old Michelle Carter guilty of manslaughter. Her weapon? A series of text messages urging Conrad to kill himself. The text messages recovered by police from Michelle Carter’s phone filled 317 pages which now contain the whole tragic story.


O.J. Simpson’s Life After Parole: What Happens Next?

frontier airfield

He’s America’s most infamous inmate. From all-star football player to convicted felon, OJ Simpson is set to walk free after serving nine years in prison.

It’s a defining cultural tale of modern America – a saga of race, celebrity, media, violence, and the criminal justice system. O.J. Simpson became one of the most controversial and polarizing celebrities in pop culture history. He had first skyrocketed to fame and fortune as a gridiron icon with Hollywood looks, who transitioned from athlete to actor with ease. But his fall from grace would prove equally stunning when he was accused of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. With underlying themes of race and police corruption, it became the “trial of the century”, transfixing and ultimately dividing the country when Simpson was acquitted on all counts. A subsequent civil trial would find Simpson liable for the death and order him to pay a total of $33.5 million to the families of his two victims.