published Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

Gordon County man faces murder charges in father's death

RANGER, Ga. — When Susan Rhinehart heard the gunshots outside her home, she locked herself in the bathroom and dialed 911.

About 1 p.m. Monday, Rhinehart told Gordon County dispatchers that her husband, Steve, was in his workshop behind the house when she heard the shots.

She then saw her 35-year-old son, Matthew, walking from where the shots originated, a 911 report shows.

Minutes later, Steve Rhinehart, 62, was pronounced dead with multiple bullet wounds, said Chattooga County Coroner James Carver.

Although charges haven't been filed, authorities said Matthew Rhinehart will face a murder charge. He is being held in Gordon County Jail.

About the same time Susan Rhinehart called 911 Monday, her son also made a call, 911 records show.

He told a dispatcher he had shot his dad with a pistol because his father was "coming at him and attacking him," records show. He said he found the pistol but it wasn't his.

On Tuesday, Gordon County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Robert Paris said it will be up to a jury to decide if Matthew Rhinehart was acting in self-defense. "That will be answered in court," he said.

Investigators believe there was an ongoing dispute between Matthew Rhinehart and his father, according to a sheriff's office news release.

Deputies have been called to the Rhinehart's house, located off a private dirt road named after the family, twice since 2009, records show. Both calls were about Matthew Rhinehart.

In 2009, his parents asked authorities to help find their son because he was missing.

In July 2011, Matthew Rhinehart called 911 to ask for a ride to a mental health facility, the report shows.

He told dispatchers he had a drug problem but had been clean for a year, the report states.

The Rhineharts gathered on the family property Tuesday afternoon, but no one wanted to talk about what happened.

Steve Rhinehart's body was sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab in Atlanta for an autopsy, Carver said.

Max Brannon and Sons Funeral Home in Calhoun, Ga., will handle the funeral arrangements.

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...

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