Rhoden, along with Justin Caleb Pruitt and Taylor Nicole Cameron, were charged with the triple murder. Rhoden faces 17 charges, including three counts of felony murder. His trial is expected to start in August or September.
Pruitt was charged with two counts of felony murder and two counts of kidnapping with bodily injury and Cameron with one count of criminal attempt to tamper with evidence, according to the indictment.
Keeping Gene’s Legacy Alive
As Ashley awaits trial and navigates life without her husband, she is focused on two goals: raising her children with Gene at the center of everything they do, and ensuring that Gene’s legacy lives on.
“Everyone Gene touched lost a friend, a mentor, a family member,” said Ashley, who works for AT&T as a sales leader. “He was like a celebrity in disguise, just an amazing human being. The way he lived his life was so admirable, and even though he is no longer here physically to influence everyone, I want to make sure his presence is felt and his life continues to make a difference.”
With the help of Scott Geary, Executive Director of the PGA Georgia Section, Ashley created the Gene Siller Memorial Scholarship administered by the Georgia PGA Foundation to honor Gene and his passion for youth golf. The grant provides financial assistance to competitive young golfers in Georgia.
“Gene was coaching junior golfers at Pinetree and wanted more time and resources for kids who are passionate about playing golf,” Geary said. “This grant will live on in Gene’s name and will pursue that attitude of service and the opportunity to help others that Gene embodied. His legacy is in his children and in many other children who will grow golf in his honor”.
The fund began with the inaugural Gene Siller Red Pants Tournament at Pinetree last August. Support poured in from across the country, including members of the PGA Tour. Items autographed by Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson were donated for auction. The event raised more than $200,000 and seven young golfers received scholarships to support their efforts.
The next Gene Siller Red Pants Memorial Tournament will be held on August 15 at Pinetree Country Club.
Sharing his love for the game.
Although Gene spent his work week on the golf course, he often returned to take his sons, Beau, 8, and Banks, 6, out to play 18 holes.
“When I took them golfing, I always had a little prize bag of goodies for the kid who won the hole,” Ashley said. “He also had a giant trophy that he gave to the one who won the most holes, so the trophy was always in the changing rooms. Gene made golf fun for them.”
Days after Gene’s death, Ashley and her friends visited the 10th hole green at Pinetree. While they were there, a persistent dragonfly caught her attention, generating meaning and a symbol of Gene’s presence.
“Now we see dragonflies everywhere we go, and they all simultaneously yell ‘Daddy!’” Ashley said. “When we see them on the golf course, the kids say, ‘Daddy’s here! Dad saw that putt! They have become a comfort to all of us.”
The past year has been filled with painful firsts: first birthdays without Gene, the holidays, their anniversary, Father’s Day. But it is his absence from day to day that hurts the most.
“Our wedding rings were engraved with ‘Team Siller’ because that was us, a team,” Ashley said. “Parenting and life, is not meant to be done individually. Gene and I were 50-50 below the line. There were so many things he was dealing with that he had never thought about before, like emissions and taxes. In the winter he would chop wood and light these amazing fires. We’d go to the Christmas tree lot and he’d pick out the biggest one. This year there were no fires, and the tree was not great. We switched from our ‘go big or go home’ mentality to survival mode.”
‘It will be OK’
Ashley has been intentional about keeping golf a constant in the children’s lives. They play at least every two weeks, friends and family are always eager to take them out for a round. Gene’s best friend, fellow golf pro Ryan Joyce, helped Beau and Banks prepare for the new golf clubs and surprised them with golf bags displaying their father’s memorial grant logo.
“Children are very resilient,” Ashley said. “They are children and they can only see what is right in front of them. They will be fine thanks to the support system we have. The same goes for me. That doesn’t mean we’re not heartbroken. Not a day has gone by that I haven’t shed a tear. We’ll never be the same, but Gene always said, ‘Everything will be fine,’ and I’m willing to believe it.”
Ashley fell in love with Gene when she was a 20-year-old college student and he was a 33-year-old mechanical engineer (with five patents) turned golf pro. Ashley made Gene more fun; he helped her become more grounded.
“I feel like I grew up with him,” Ashley said. “He was so humble, kind, loving, down-to-earth. He was like a father, very smart, instilling life skills in me, showing me how to make decisions, how to trust my instincts, how to protect myself and our family. We joked about having the Siller Fortress and he was the Gatekeeper Genie. I miss him and that feeling of being protected. But I know I’ve handled this situation better because Gene unknowingly set me up to do it. I constantly ask, ‘What would Genie do?’ and I probably always will. Gene is still my compass.”
Gene Siller Memorial Scholarship
Donations can be made by visiting go.rallyup.com/georgiapgafoundation. Follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/genesillergrant