CELINA — Bryant Rhoades was sent to prison for the rest of his life Tuesday as the family of a rural Fort Recovery man and his daughter were left shattered trying to pick up the pieces over two senseless deaths.
One by one, members of the family of Robert and Colleen Grube told a three-judge panel and everyone in the courtroom of the holidays, vacations, laughs, memories and special events they all cherished together.
To the Grubes, family was everything and Rhoades ripped their family apart.
Adrian Grube said his father and sister didn’t deserve to die. With his voice breaking with emotion, sometimes pausing to regain his composure, he explained how much they meant to him.
“To say I missed my father and sister would be the understatement of the world,” he said.
Robert Grube, 70, was in a wheelchair after suffering a stroke. Colleen Grube, 47, was his caregiving daughter. Rhoades and others broke into their home Nov. 29 or 30, 2011, to rob them. They were bound with duct tape and shot multiple times inside their rural Fort Recovery home.
Each member of the Grube family asked the three-judge panel to never give Rhoades a chance at freedom again.
“I do not wish any other family go through the hell we have gone through. Our family is forever broken,” Adrian Grube said.
Sister Tracy Grube said her family was treated like suspects early on in the investigation and she was interrogated all while Rhoades and the others remained free. After that, her family lived in fear that someone was targeting the Grube family, she said.
She said Rhoades was a cold and calculated killer.
“Bryant Rhoades is pure evil and it would be a travesty of justice to allow him to ever again be free,” Tracy Grube said.
Cherie Gehle said her father was a man with a heart of gold while describing the last Thanksgiving the family spent together just days before the murders.
She also told a story about celebrating her father’s 70th birthday, including his attempt to blow out the candles on his cake only to have his false teeth fall out. His grandchildren had to help him, she said.
All they have left now is memories, she said.
“Our family is forever broken,” Cherie Gehle said.
Rhoades pleaded guilty Tuesday, a month after he backed out of his first attempt at a plea deal and demanded going to trial. Prosecutors were seeking the death penalty but agreed to the deal that would spare Rhoades’ life.
The 23-year-old Rhoades entered the Alford pleas to two counts of aggravated murder with gun specifications and two counts each of aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary.
Despite entering an Alford plea that means Rhoades can be found guilty, he continued to maintain his innocence.
“The truth always prevails. In this life or the next, I will be proven innocent. I really am innocent of this crime. I was not there. I did not take these people’s lives,” Rhoades said.
Rhoades said the only thing he is guilty of was lying. He said he told a lie to investigators putting himself at the scene of the crime.
“It was stupid, it was senseless for me to ever make up a story about the crime. I cannot imagine the pain this family went through but I am not responsible for the pain. I did not pull the trigger,” he said.
Rhoades even said he doubts the guilt of his co-defendant, Trevin Sanders. Sanders, 17 at the time of the crime, will be sentenced in the near future. Prosecutors were holding him as a witness after he pleaded guilty to charges and admitted to his role in the killings.
Rhoades’ attorney, Bill Kluge, asked for a lesser sentence with a chance for parole. He said Rhoades has a tough life filled with drug abuse and a father who neglected him.
Kluge said Rhoades asked that he not call any witnesses in his defense to try to mitigate a sentence or to explain his troubled life.
“I’m asking the court and all three of the judges to show some mercy,” Kluge said.
But in the end the only mercy Rhoades got was avoiding the death penalty.