The man who led authorities to the remains of Hannah Bender in 2019 provided more disturbing details in the second day of the murder trial against alleged fellow THIS gang member Austin Stryker.
Dylan Reid testified following testimony the previous day from another witness and alleged fellow gang member, Isaac Huff, before Northeastern Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Kathlene Gosselin at a courtroom in the Dawson County Government Center.
Reid, along with Huff, pleaded guilty in April for their roles in Bender’s death. Reid was sentenced to 15 years in prison and 20 years of probation for being a party to aggravated assault, tampering with evidence, concealing the death of another and a violation of Georgia’s Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act. Huff will spend 12 years in prison and 18 years on probation
The night of Sept. 14, 2019, Reid said Stryker left Huff’s house around midnight with a handgun.
Reid testified that Stryker said, “You never know. I might need it,” before he took a Ruger handgun belonging to Robert Youngblood with him. Reid said he drank a little that night but that he saw Huff sober while Stryker drank alcohol and consumed methamphetamine.
Reid said Stryker occasionally carried around the black Ruger .380 with a red trigger belonging to Youngblood. Reid said he saw Stryker with the handgun two weeks prior to Bender’s killing.
Early that next morning, between about 5 and 6 a.m., Reid was awakened at Huff’s house by Huff, who ran up the stairs and frantically told his friend to get downstairs, mentioning something about a body.
Reid added he didn’t know the body would be Bender’s but assumed it might be.
There had been earlier discussion of a “snitch” in connection with robbery attempts by the group and two names mentioned, Reid said: Bailey Smith, who is also charged in the incident, and Bender.
Reid testified that the victim may not have been planning on going to police regarding alleged armed robberies earlier that year.
“I remember him (Stryker) saying that once he killed Hannah, he would be sure who the snitch was,” Reid said.
Reid repeated what he said Huff told him about Bender getting shot mid-sentence and Stryker jumping into the passenger seat and telling Huff to go.
Bender, 21, was shot in the head and stabbed 32 times.
When he walked outside Huff’s house, he said he found a shirtless Stryker wiping a knife on the ground. The knife was Reid’s and had been sitting in Youngblood’s black Mazda pickup truck, in which they all regularly rode.
Reid described Stryker’s demeanor as more composed than Huff’s. When asked why he didn’t call 911, Reid brought up his aversion to asking law enforcement for help growing up.
“I know that if I’d called 911 sooner, we probably wouldn't be in this situation. I just thought about the trouble I’d be getting into,” Reid said.
Upon approaching the truck, Reid described seeing Bender slumped over in the back seat with the head wound but not necessarily seeing the blood in the car.
“I smelled it more than anything, but I saw it on her … it’s sickening,” Reid said. “You won’t forget it.”
Reid said he helped Stryker move Bender’s body out of the truck, wrap her in a blanket and take her to a fire pit. They took off the clothes they were wearing and told Huff to burn the items.
The witness said during the prosecution’s questioning they thought Bender might have been alive when they wrapped her body in the blanket before moving her. However, he clarified during the cross-examination by Stryker’s defense attorney Brock Johnson that he “didn’t believe her to be alive” because of her head wound.
Reid said later that morning he helped put Bender’s body into a toolbox from the bed of the Mazda pickup truck.
Stryker’s wife drove to Youngblood’s home off of Blacks Mill Road as Reid sat in the passenger seat and Stryker sat in the back with his infant son. The windows of the Ford Explorer had to be rolled down to circulate air and alleviate the odor coming from the toolbox, Reid said.
Reid moved the toolbox to a spot between an old camper and shed there. He then helped Stryker remove the driver’s seat, carpet and wall panels from the truck and place the objects in the Ford Explorer. The truck was left at Youngblood’s property.
Williams was later contacted before Huff, Reid and Stryker picked her up and disposed of the truck parts off of Grizzle Road in Dawson County.
About a week later, Reid was at a friend’s in Dawsonville when Stryker drove up and asked for his help with the body. They then went to where Stryker had moved the body off of Parks Road in north Forsyth County.
Reid agreed to put dirt on top of Bender’s shallow grave but refused Stryker’s request to dismember her body. Reid also said he refused to take Stryker to a friend’s house in West Virginia, with Jerry Harper, who is also charged in the case, instead being the one to allegedly take Stryker there.
Reid reiterated to attorneys from both sides that he felt scared and that he helped Stryker because of their mutual long-term friendship and not because of their small gang, THIS.
Senior Assistant District Attorney Shiv Sachdeva followed up by reminding Reid of his April testimony, where Reid did express fear at what Stryker could do.
“‘Anything could happen. He could have shot me,’” Reid added in response.
“At your plea hearing, you testified that he (Stryker) was the type of person who could kill. Were you lying about that?” said Sachdeva.
“No,” said Reid.
During a tense inquiry from Johnson, Reid said that his testimony Wednesday was the same as what he said during his plea hearing and to a GBI investigator “for the most part.” Lying under oath could compromise his plea deal.
The state’s medical examiner is among those set to take the stand Thursday. The judge has also discussed possible jury instructions regarding the graphic pictures from Bender’s discovery and autopsy.
Tuesday, Huff recounted a gang oath of blood and the night that ended with disposing of the remains of Bender.
The prosecution wasted no time linking the events surrounding Bender’s death to Stryker and others’ participation in the small gang called “THIS.”
Huff told Sachdeva that he joined the gang roughly six months before the September 2019 incident. 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 Harper and Stryker being No. 1 and 2, respectively.
About a month before Bender’s death, Huff said Reid, Stryker, Harper and he hosted a ceremony in the basement of his grandmother’s house to swear loyalty to “THIS.”
They each swore loyalty oaths by pricking their fingers and dropping blood onto a piece of paper before Stryker burned it.
“He said that if we’d betray the gang, we’d burn in hell like this piece of paper,” Huff said.