After five-and-a-half hours of deliberation and a case full of twists and turns, a Dawson County jury convicted Austin Todd Stryker, 24, of murdering 21-year-old Hannah Bender in 2019 by shooting and stabbing her.
Stryker was convicted on all 24 counts relating to Bender’s murder, which the prosecution argued he committed so the victim would not go to police about a 2019 armed robbery in Dahlonega.
Those charges were: malice murder; three counts of felony murder; three counts aggravated assault; two counts aggravated battery; possession of both a gun and a knife during the commission of a crime; 11 violations of Georgia’s Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act; concealing the death of another and tampering with evidence.
Co-defendant Jerry Harper, 79, was charged with three street gang violation counts; hindering the apprehension or punishment of a criminal and theft by receiving stolen property. According to his indictment and Huff and Reid’s testimony, Harper was the alleged leader of the gang “THIS” and approved of Bender’s murder.
He allegedly committed the theft, hindering and two associated gang charges by taking Stryker to West Virginia on Sept. 20, 2019.
A calendar date hasn’t been set yet for Stryker’s sentencing hearing.
For their roles in the murder cover-up, Isaac Huff and Dylan Reid both pleaded guilty in April to aggravated assault, aggravated battery, a street gang violation and tampering with evidence. Reid also pleaded to concealing the death of another.
He will spend 20 years in jail and 15 on probation, while Huff will spend 12 in jail and 18 on probation.
Elizabeth Donaldson, Stryker’s wife, has been charged with concealing the death of another and tampering with evidence. She allegedly helped move Bender’s remains to a Blacks Mill Road residence on Sept. 16 and strip interior parts from the truck where Bender was murdered.
Bailey Williams, arrested in October 2019, faces a tampering with evidence charge in Lumpkin County for her role in allegedly helping dispose of Bender’s belongings after her murder. Williams is also charged in the same 2019 Dahlonega robbery as Stryker in Lumpkin County.
DCN and its affiliate newspapers will provide updates as Stryker’s case goes to sentencing and the others’ cases advance through the court system.