Hannah Bender, 21, last seen in Lumpkin County, was reported missing mid-September. PHOTO COURTESY OF LUMPKIN COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE
Suspect arrested in Hannah Bender homicide
BY DENISE RAY
The main suspect in the disappearance and murder of Hannah Bender, was arrested October 2 in Pennsylvania. Austin Todd Stryker, 22, of Dawson County was arrested in Pittsburgh, after turning himself in to authorities on October 2. He was the subject of a nationwide manhunt after her body was found in a shallow grave in Forsyth County more than 10 days after she vanished. Hannah’s family was notified by authorities in Lumpkin County where she was last seen.
“I reached out to the family this morning around 6:30 a.m., the mother of Miss Bender, and made her aware that Stryker was in custody,” Lumpkin County Sheriff Stacy Jarrard told reporters. “Now, she’s on the path of preparing the funeral of her daughter.”
Bender was reported missing in September 19 by her mother who had last heard from her daughter on September 14 after receiving a 3:14 a.m. text message.
“In my 31 years of law enforcement, we have had cases of this nature, but not necessarily where there were this many people involved,” Jarrard said. “At this point in time, I’d have to say, in my career, it would be the case that has the most people involved in it.”
Jarrard credited numerous outside agencies all of whom worked together for a common goal, he said.
“It was a joint effort between Lumpkin, Dawson, Forsyth, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Marshal Service, and some other task force was involved also from other agencies,” Jarrard said. “So, it was a great rally of teamwork with all the law enforcement to have the success that we've had to be able to put this together as fast as we have.”
Stryker will eventually be expedited back to Georgia.
Bender’s body was found in a shallow grave in a partially wooded, partially-pasture land area Parks Road in Forsyth County September 24. It is unclear how or why she was killed or how she ended up at a remote campsite in a forest in Lumpkin County, authorities said.
Five others were arrested in Georgia in connection with the murder.
Bailey Williams, 21, was arrested in Lumpkin County October 1 on charges of tampering with evidence.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation arrested Stryker’s fiancée Elizabeth Brooke Donaldson in Dawson County, charging her with tampering with evidence and concealing the death of another.
Dawson County Sheriff’s office deputies arrested Jerry Harper, 78, who had been considered “a person of interest” in the case. He is charged with concealment of a body and tampering with evidence.
Isaac Huff, 18, and Dylan Patrick Reid, 19, were arrested October 1 by the Dawson County authorities; they are charged with concealing the death of another.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation continues working the case.
Austin Stryker has been captured in Pennsylvania. He was arrested October 2 in connection with the murder of Hannah Bender after a nationwide manhunt.