Cobb judge chosen for golf course death penalty case

Some of Cobb County’s Superior Court judges gathered in a sixth-floor courtroom Wednesday morning to learn who would preside over an upcoming death penalty case.

The process slightly resembled Bingo night or a raffle at a charity event. Cobb District Attorney Flynn Broady looked on as Chief Deputy Clerk Kimberly Carroll spun eight balls around in a metal cage. On each ball was a number assigned to a corresponding judge. No evidence was presented and the selection process lasted less than three minutes.

Judge Robert Flournoy III was chosen to oversee one of the county’s most high-profile murder cases in recent history. With Flournoy’s selection, the case will be reassigned from Superior Court Judge Kimberly Childs.

Broady confirmed Tuesday he plans to seek the death penalty against Bryan Rhoden, the suspect accused of fatally shooting three men last summer at a popular Kennesaw-area country club.

Two of the victims victims were found tied up and shot in the back of a pickup truck on the 10th hole, and the course’s beloved golf director was killed when he went to investigate, police said.

Broady’s office notified the court clerk of its plans to seek the ultimate punishment last month.

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

It’s the first time Broady has sought the death penalty since becoming district attorney. It’s also the first death penalty case in Cobb since former DA Vic Reynolds announced plans to seek the ultimate punishment against a suspect accused of raping and murdering his stepdaughter in 2016 before torching the Marietta home to cover his tracks.

That case is still pending.

Flournoy, a longtime Cobb judge, was appointed to the bench by former Gov. Roy Barnes in July 2000, according to his biography on the court’s website.

Rhoden, 24, faces three counts of murder and a host of other charges in the July 3, 2021, slayings at Pinetree Country Club.

He is accused of killing Paul Pierson, 76, and Henry Valdez, 46, both of whom were found tied up and shot in the back Pierson’s Dodge pickup truck.

The third victim, golf director Gene Siller, was killed when he went to find out why the truck had driven onto the fairway and gotten stuck near a sand trap, according to police. The club was preparing for an Independence Day event and witnesses said there were nearly 50 golfers in the clubhouse at the time.

Investigators said Siller was not targeted, but that he was killed “because he witnessed an active crime taking place.” The 46-year-old had a wife and two young sons.

In a message posted to Rhoden’s Instagram page on Tuesday, the aspiring rapper decried what he called “erroneous” allegations against him and said news reports about the killings “could not be further from reality.”

“In my absence, I ask that the people keep an open mind as to what led to the unfortunate turn of events and who is responsible,” the post said.

The account had not been updated since October. Previous posts included video releases, clips of performances and recording updates. Rhoden’s attorney did not respond to calls or emails seeking comment about the DA’s decision to pursue the death penalty.

Rhoden was recently re-indicted along with two of his alleged accomplices, Justin Caleb Pruitt and Taylor Nicole Cameron.

Rhoden faces 17 charges, including three counts of malice murder, seven counts of felony murder, two counts of kidnapping with bodily injury, three counts of aggravated assault and one count each of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and tampering with evidence, court records show.

Pruitt’s warrant alleges he acted as a “co-conspirator and accomplice” in helping bind Pierson and Valdez with duct tape and zip ties at a building along Jonesboro Road in Clayton County. He is also accused of helping transport the men some 41 miles to the golf course, where investigators say Pierson and Valdez were killed by Rhoden.

Pruitt faces two counts of felony murder and two counts of kidnapping with bodily injury, court records show.

Authorities say that after running from the scene, Rhoden allegedly asked Cameron to drive to the golf course and retrieve his gun. She was recently indicted on one count of criminal attempt to commit tampering with evidence.

Credit: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Atlanta Journal-Constitution