A jury convicted a Georgia man on counts of murder and other charges for shooting and stabbing a woman to death. Austin Todd Stryker, 24, killed Hannah Bender, 21, because he worried about her talking to cops about a July 2019 armed robbery, according to authorities in a Dawson County News report.
“Throughout the trial and preparation of this case, the focus of our office has always been, and will continue to be, getting justice for Hannah Bender,” Northeastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Lee Darragh said in a statement obtained by Law&Crime. “The jury accomplished that today in their most appreciated verdict. We look forward now to sentencing in which our focus will be complete accountability for Austin Stryker. My appreciation is further extended to Assistant District Attorneys Conley Greer and Shiv Sachdeva, all in my office whose assistance to them was invaluable, and to Kristen Perry of the GBI for her excellent investigation.”
Darragh said it was not a death penalty case, according to the report. Sentencing is pending.
A jury convicted Austin Stryker on malice murder and other charges in the 2019 shooting and stabbing of 21-year-old Hannah Bender. https://t.co/ykycoL81Pa
— FOX 5 Atlanta (@FOX5Atlanta) November 11, 2021
According to authorities and testimony from co-defendants charged with other crimes, Stryker was a member of a gang called “THIS.”
Stryker reportedly testified that the Sept. 14, 2019 that Bender shot herself by accident. In his version of events, he was planning on stealing meth from a drug dealer, and gave Bender the gun to show he could steal from the dealer. He claimed that Bender looked down at her phone and held the weapon wrong.
Prosecutors said that Stryker stabbed Bender at least 32 times. Stryker said he did so to make Bender lighter by reducing body fluid. Stryker said that he and Dylan Patrick Reid–who already pleaded guilty to an aggravated assault case and testified in the Stryker trial–wrapped up the victim’s body and put the remains in a fire pit belonging to co-defendant Issac Huff, who took a plea deal in connection to disposing of the body.
Despite Stryker’s claim that this was an accident, prosecutors cited Reid, Huff and a woman named Bailey Williams in maintaining that he wanted to kill Bender because he worried about her going to police regarding a July 2019 armed robbery.
A tampering charge against Williams, who allegedly threw away Bender’s possessions, is pending. So is the case against Stryker’s wife, Elizabeth Donaldson, who allegedly helped move Bender’s body and strip parts of her truck. Jerry Harper, 79, who was the alleged leader of THIS and allegedly approved the murder, faces charges including hindering the apprehension or punishment of a criminal.
[Image via West Virginia State Police]
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