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Alabama Man Sentenced to Life for Killing Man He Lured on Grindr

Alabama Man Sentenced to Life for Killing Man He Lured on Grindr

Man Sentenced to Life for Killing Man He Lured on Grindr

Police say the victim fought back in his final moments.

An Alabama man was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder of a man he met on a gay dating app.

Sabronte Rhodes was found guilty May 19 of the murder of Johnny Soekhies, 58. Soekhies’s lifeless body was found in a ditch in a partially developed subdivision in Mobile, Ala., with a gunshot wound to the head October 25, 2019. Rhodes used Grindr to arrange a date with Soekhies for the purpose of robbing him but ended up killing him instead.

“Sabronte Rhodes is heading right where he belongs ­ behind bars for the rest of his life,” the Mobile District Attorney’s Office posted to Facebook following sentencing. “Thank you Judge Phillips for giving Sabronte Rhodes the sentence he deserves and for justice for the Soekhies family!”

Capt. Paul Burch of the Mobile County Sheriff's Office said Rhodes was captured on surveillance video forcing Soekhies to withdraw money from an ATM around 3 a.m. the day of his murder. Burch also indicated that Soekhies fought back in his final moments alive.

“Based on the markings on the body, we believe he fought back,” Burch was quoted by local NBC affiliate WPMI. “He didn’t want to be the victim of a robbery.”

Police said Rhodes had used Grindr to lure other victims as well.

“We do know that Rhodes was using the Grindr App to reach out to people and that’s ultimately what he used to get Mr. Soekhies in the vehicle with him,” Burch told local CBS affiliate WKRG.

He revealed investigators had Rhodes under surveillance when he was observed with a man he had met on Grindr. Believing the man to be another intended victim and fearing for his safety, police quickly arrested Rhodes outside a sex shop where the two men had driven.

“I believe that guy was an intended victim,” Burch told WPMI. “In talking with him, he was very embarrassed but grateful.”

Another victim, Mason Cooley, told WKRG he met Rhodes on Grindr and knew him by the nickname Dre. He said the two had been communicating for about a month before Rhodes burglarized his house.

Cooley said Rhodes “put on a lot of vibes that he wanted a relationship” while also asking about the location and functionality of the security cameras at his home. When Cooley was out of town, he had a friend housesit during the evenings, so Rhodes broke into the home through a back window during the day and stole two televisions. The crime was captured on surveillance cameras and Rhodes was quickly arrested.

“He’s doing stuff with men and also using them, finding out their routine, and going back to their houses and stealing stuff,” Cooley said. “Obviously, I’m not the only one. I’m not the only victim.”

Grindr issued a statement regarding the case.

“We extend our deepest condolences to Johnny Clark Soekhies’ loved ones amid this heartbreaking incident. At Grindr, we are deeply committed to creating a safe online environment for all of our users. We take a number of measures to protect our community, including banning user accounts that violate our Community Guidelines, redesigning our in-app reporting process, and providing a Safety Guide to assist users when interacting with others online. We also listen to and engage with our community through many channels, encouraging them to report suspicious activities through our in-app reporting function, and addressing issues that are brought to our attention. We continually assess our practices and implement new measures to provide a safe environment on our platform.”

Rhodes faces additional charges, including allegations that he stabbed an inmate while in custody.

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