By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support local journalism.
Lumpkin County murder suspect arrested in Pennsylvania, five others in custody in Georgia
stryker
Austin Todd Stryker.

Authorities say that Austin Todd Stryker, the man who is considered a prime suspect in the recent murder of a Lumpkin County woman, has been taken into custody.

After several weeks spent on the run from multiple law enforcement agencies, Stryker turned himself in to authorities in Pittsburg, authorities reported on Wednesday morning.

"Efforts to return him to [Georgia] are in progress," the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said via Twitter.

Stryker is accused of killing Hannah Bender, a 21-year-old woman from Dahlonega, whose body was discovered in a shallow grave off Parks Road in north Forsyth last Wednesday.

Bender was reported missing in Lumpkin County by her mother on Sept. 19 and shortly after bloody clothing was found in nearby Dawson County.

Case timeline (scrollable)
  • Sept. 25, 2019: Authorities discover Lumpkin County 21-year-old Hannah Bender's body.
  • Sept. 26, 2019: Community remembers Hannah Bender.
  • Sept. 27, 2019: Jerry Harper is arrested as a person of interest in the Dawson County murder case.
  • Oct. 1, 2019: Isaac Huff, Dylan Reid, Bailey Williams and Elizabeth Donaldson have been arrested.
  • Oct. 2, 2019: Austin Stryker is arrested in Pennsylvania.
  • Apr. 7, 2021: Huff and Reid plead guilty to their charges tied to the murder cover-up.
  • Oct. 8, 2021: Evidence of Stryker's alleged motive is allowed into his upcoming criminal trial.
  • Oct. 29, 2021: Harper pleads guilty on three charges tied to Bender's murder. His plea was made public after Stryker's trial.
  • Nov. 1, 2021: Stryker goes to trial for his Dawson County murder charges.
  • Nov. 4, 2021: A possible mistrial looms after jurors for Stryker's trial are dismissed due to COVID-19 exposure concerns.
  • Nov. 10, 2021: Stryker is convicted on all 24 counts tied to the murder of Hannah Bender.
  • Dec. 14, 2021: Harper is sentenced to 20 years in prison for his role in the murder and cover-up.
  • Dec. 15, 2021: Stryker is sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for his role in Bender's murder.
  • April 2022: Harper is indicted in Forsyth County for his role in the murder cover-up there.
  • June 2022: Huff and Williams are formally accused along with Stryker in a 2019 Lumpkin County armed robbery that's been linked to the motive for Hannah Bender's 2019 murder in Dawson County.
  • July 29, 2022: Stryker's wife, Elizabeth Donaldson, pleads guilty to charges for her role in the murder cover-up.
  • Feb. 8, 2023: Williams pleads guilty as a first offender for her role in the Lumpkin County robbery case tied to Bender's murder.
  • March 14, 2023: After his lawyers asked for a new trial, the judge for Stryker's murder case reserves a final ruling to review concerns about defense arguments allowed during the 2021 trial.
  • May 18, 2023: Huff pleads guilty in the Lumpkin County robbery case. The prosecution there decides not to continue proceedings against Stryker, who is already serving a life sentence for the Dawson County murder.
  • June 30, 2023: Stryker's motion for a new trial in the Dawson County murder case is denied.
  • July 12, 2023: Stryker seeks to have his criminal case appealed to the state's highest court, the Georgia Supreme Court.

At a press conference held last week, Lumpkin County Sheriff Stacy Jarrard said that authorities believe that Bender was killed at a campsite in Lumpkin County, but the search for her body involved law enforcement authorities from multiple agencies and crime scenes in Lumpkin, Dawson and Forsyth counties.

Six arrests have been made during the investigation.

Stryker’s wife, Elizabeth Donaldson, 21, was arrested Wednesday, Sept. 25 — the day law enforcement found Bender’s body — and charged with tampering with evidence.

Jerry Harper, 78, was arrested Sept. 27 in Dawson County and charged with theft by receiving stolen property and driving while license suspended or revoked, but the GBI previously stated it had taken warrants out for Harper for “concealment of dead body” and “tampering with evidence” in Forsyth County.

Then, on Monday, Sept. 30, Dawson County residents Isaac Huff, 18, and Dylan Reid, 19, were arrested in Dawson by the GBI.

Huff has been charged with one felony count for concealing death and is accused of allowing another to keep Bender’s body on his property.

Reid has been charged with felony counts of tampering with evidence and concealing death. He is accused of knowingly concealing evidence connected to Bender’s murder, concealing Bender’s death and hindering the discovery of her body.

On Tuesday, a sixth suspect, Bailey Diane Williams, 21, of Lumpkin County was arrested in Lumpkin County in connection with the case. Williams has been charged with tampering with evidence. 

bailey williams
Bailey Diane Williams.

Authorities would not comment on any of the suspects’ relationships to Bender or each other, but according to Jarrard, more arrests are possible as the investigation continues. 

Meanwhile, Stryker had been on the run and was considered armed and dangerous. The U.S. Marshals Service had put out a $5,000 reward for information about Stryker’s whereabouts.

On Wednesday, Dawson County Sheriff Jeff Johnson told the Dawson County News that officials from Dawson, Lumpkin and Forsyth counties and the GBI met in Hall County the previous day to discuss the case and where the case would be centered.

Johnson said that based on new evidence that has been uncovered, there is a possibility that the case could go to court in Dawson County. 

“I don’t think anything’s been absolutely made finalized yet, but it looks like this is going to be a Dawson County case,” Johnson said

Jurisdiction on the case has not been confirmed by the District Attorney's Office at this time. 

Dawson County News reporter Jessica Taylor contributed to this report. 

Magazines