|Parole protested in Perrysburg Heights arson and manslaughter|
|Written by PETER KUEBECK Sentinel Staff Writer|
|Wednesday, 01 May 2013 09:40|
LIME CITY - A victim's group is advocating against parole for two people convicted in the deaths of seven Perrysburg Township family members nearly 30 years ago.
Rhoda Maddox, 64, and Orville Wheeler Jr., 68, are coming up for parole this month. The pair were convicted in 1988, each receiving a minimum sentence of 15 years and a maximum sentence of 200 years, in the involuntary manslaughter deaths of Maddox's mother, Awilda Maddox, 69; Rhoda Maddox's brother, Curtis Maddox Jr., 33; and Curtis's five children: Jody, 10; Evelyn, 9; William, 8; and twins, Jennifer and Dawn, 7, in a fire in Awilda's Perrysburg Heights home in the early morning of Dec. 27, 1985.
Among the issues that apparently sparked the killings was Rhoda's discontent over family property which she said was rightfully hers. She was also reportedly angered by the quality of her Christmas gifts, according to some reports. Wheeler was her boyfriend at the time.
The fire which killed the seven family members was initially blamed on a defective stove, and the scene was in such a damaged state that no accelerant could be found that would have indicated arson. However, a tip sent to CrimeStoppers nearly two years after the incident re-opened the case, with a Maumee Police detective leading the investigation. Maddox, on Wheeler's orders, reportedly lit a blanket on fire and left it by the stove, causing the home to burn. Maddox and Wheeler were arrested in July, 1988; Maddox confessed to the crime, and testified against Wheeler during his trial that November. He was convicted in the Wood County Court of Common Pleas.
Both were convicted on one count each of aggravated arson, and seven counts each of involuntary manslaughter. A contemporary Sentinel-Tribune story on the case indicated the pair were charged with involuntary manslaughter because there did not appear to be intent to kill - Wheeler had reportedly told Maddox that the fire could be set without endangering the residents.
Maddox, now 64, is incarcerated in the Ohio Reformatory for Women, Marysville. Wheeler, now 68, is at the Allen Correctional Institution, Lima.
A non-profit organization, Block Parole, headquartered in Upper Arlington, has come out against granting parole to the pair, posting on their website that Maddox and Wheeler "methodically planned and carried out the brutal murders of seven people, including five innocent young children. Granting parole to either of these inmates would be a slap in the face to the entire Maddox family and would be a complete injustice to all seven victims."
The statement, located on their website, goes on to state that "their release would pose an incredible risk to the community, especially to the surviving Maddox family members. Based on the horrific nature of their crimes and the tremendous loss of life that resulted from their actions, we believe that Rhoda Maddox and Orville Wheeler Jr. should be required to serve their maximum sentences of 200 years in prison."
The site additionally offers an online form for people to send comments to the Ohio Parole Board.
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