After nearly six hours of deliberations by jurors, Austin Todd Stryker was found guilty Wednesday of malice murder for shooting and stabbing a 21-year-old woman in Dawson County.
Hannah Bender was shot in the head without warning by Stryker, 24, then stabbed 32 times. She was buried at a shallow grave site in northern Forsyth County.
Stryker was found guilty of the 24 charges he faced. In addition to malice murder, he was found guilty of felony murder; aggravated assault; aggravated battery; possessing a firearm and knife during commission of a felony; violations of Georgia’s Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act; concealing the death of another; and tampering with evidence.
Stryker, of Dawsonville, faces life in prison without parole. Superior Court Judge Kathlene Gosselin plans to sentence him in the coming weeks.
Bender, 21, of Lumpkin County was killed between Sept. 14-15 while riding in a Mazda pickup truck with Stryker and Isaac Huff, according to previous court testimony. As the truck neared the Sweetwater Juno Road area of Dawson County, Bender was shot in the head without warning by Stryker, according to testimony given in a plea hearing in April.
As part of a plea deal, Huff will spend 12 years in prison and 18 years on probation for his role in Bender’s death.
Dylan Reid was also involved. He pleaded guilty in April to aggravated assault, aggravated battery, a street gang violation, tampering with evidence and concealing the death of another. He will spend 20 years in jail and 15 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. A trial date for her has not been scheduled.
During the trial, Huff told about the months that led up to Bender’s death and their connection to a small gang called, “THIS.” The six alleged members of “THIS,” including Huff, each had a handprint tattoo with a number indicating their status in the gang. Huff said he was No. 5, with Stryker being No. 2.
In Stryker’s case, the jury left the courtroom about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday and stopped deliberations at 5:30 p.m. before resuming at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
The trial, which began Nov. 2, faced the possibility of ended with a mistrial. Gosselin dismissed three jurors for COVID-19 reasons on Nov. 4, leaving her with no alternates for the 12-member jury pool.
Murder trial of Austin Stryker
Austin Stryker faces murder charges in the 2019 death of Hannah Bender of Lumpkin County. The trial began Nov. 2 in a Dawson County courtroom before Northeastern Judicial Circuit Superior Court Chief Judge Kathlene Gosselin.
- Day 1: Witness Isaac Huff testifies to an oath of blood, a woman shot and a coverup
- Day 2: Witness Dylan Reid testifies to 'sickening' scene and coverup
- Day 3: 3 jurors dismissed. Plus, testimony from medical examiner
- Day 4: Witness Bailey Williams testifies Stryker said he shot and stabbed Hannah Bender