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John Reitman

By John Reitman

Man pleads guilty in triple murder at Georgia golf course to avoid death penalty

The man who was indicted for the 2021 murder of a Georgia golf professional and two others in a drug-deal-gone-wrong has pleaded guilty to avoid the death penalty.

020524georgia3.jpgOn Feb. 2, Bryan Rhoden (below right) was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole after pleading guilty to multiple counts of murder and kidnapping in the deaths of Pinetree Country Club golf pro Gene Siller, 46 (above right), Henry Valdez, 46, and Paul Pierson, 76, at the Kennesaw, Georgia golf course in July 2021.

Siller was found dead near Pinetree's No. 10 green at Pinetree, when he responded to calls about a pickup truck on the golf course. Police later found Valdez, a drug supplier, and Pierson, his associate, slain in the bed of a Dodge pickup that had been abandoned on the property. 

Investigators say that during a drug deal on July 2, 2021, Rhoden abducted Valdez, of Anaheim, California, and Pierson, of Topeka, Kansas, in Jonesboro, Georgia, bound them with duct tape and zip ties then drove them to the golf course 40 miles away before shooting them in the bed of the pickup. In his plea Rhoden told investigators he intended to sink the pickup in a pond on the golf course. Siller, who was walking down the 10th fairway to investigate the incident, simply was in the wrong place at the wrong time, investigators said.

"Detectives have learned that Mr. Siller happened upon a crime in progress involving the unknown suspect and the two deceased males who were found in the pickup truck," according to a 2021 police report. "It does not appear Siller was in any way targeted, but rather was killed because he witnessed an active crime taking place."


Rhoden initially pleaded not guilty to the charges in December 2022.  Last July, Cobb County District Attorney Flynn Broady said he would seek the death penalty. 


Cobb County Sheriff's deputies investigate the scene on the 10th green at Pinetree Country Club in Kennesaw, Georgia, after the bodies of three people, including club pro Gene Siller, were found on July 3, 2021.

Rhoden was arrested the day of the incident on unrelated DUI charges. At the time he was not a suspect in the incident at Pinetree, and was released July 6. Two days later, he was arrested in South Carolina on charges of trafficking cocaine. That investigation eventually linked Rhoden to the events at Pinetree.

Rhoden has a history of violent crime, according to police. He was arrested in 2016 and charged with assault, attempted murder and possessing a firearm on campus when he was involved in a drug deal gone bad at Georgia State University, where he was a student at the time, police said.

Pinetree, a Chick Adams design, opened in 1962. Georgia native Larry Nelson was an assistant pro there before embarking on a Hall of Fame PGA Tour career.

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