Pierson was shot multiple times, in the back, buttock, leg and arms, according to prosecutors. Valdez was killed by a shot to the head, the indictment states.
As he fled the scene, Rhoden hid the handgun used in the shootings and arranged for an unidentified individual to retrieve it for him, the indictment states. A spokesperson for Cobb’s district attorney did not know if that person has been charged.
Police have not disclosed a motive for the killings or any information about a possible connection between Rhoden, Valdez and Pierson. A friend of Valdez’s told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the three men knew each other through the cannabis trade.
Rhoden’s attorney, Bruce Harvey, noted that only one side has been heard from so far.
“This is only the first step on a long journey and the issues will be joined soon,” said the veteran lawyer, who also represented Rhoden in 2016, when the then-Georgia State University freshman was charged with shooting a 19-year-old in the chest following an attempted drug transaction, authorities said at the time.
The Fulton County District Attorney’s Office, under Paul Howard’s leadership, declined to prosecute either party. It’s unclear why that decision was made, said Jeff DiSantis, spokesman for Howard’s successor, Fani Willis.
Rhoden would have more run-ins with law enforcement, public records reveal. In January 2020, acting on a tip, the Atlanta Police Department’s K-9 unit stopped Rhoden as he boarded a plane to Los Angeles, DiSantis said.
The dogs smelled marijuana emanating from a bag containing more than $19,000 carried by Rhoden, DiSantis said. He agreed to forfeit the money but allegedly punched one officer with the Atlanta Police Department’s Airport Drug Interdiction Unit and elbowed another, authorities said.
He was charged two days later in Clayton County, which has partial jurisdiction at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, with simple battery on police and obstructing an officer. He was released on $7,500 bond and entered a not guilty plea in August, records show. That case is still pending.
Late on July 3 – about nine hours after the bodies were discovered in Kennesaw – Rhoden was stopped by Chamblee police while driving a black Maserati with a temporary tag, a DeKalb warrant shows.
He was booked into custody at DeKalb County Jail on misdemeanor counts of DUI, a headlight violation, fake ID, driving without insurance, driving an unregistered vehicle and using a license plate to conceal the identity of a vehicle, records show. He was released on bond July 6.
Two days later, Chamblee police contacted Rhoden to inform him he could pick up the “significant amount of money” seized during his traffic stop, police later revealed. Cobb investigators had identified him as a suspect at that point, and authorities were in place to arrest him once he surfaced to claim the cash.
Rhoden is being held without bond at the Cobb jail.