LAKEWOOD, Wash. — The Stryker soldier who allegedly stabbed Spc. Tevin Geike in the heart and left him for dead on a Lakewood street after an altercation between two groups of local troops last weekend pleaded not guilty to murder charges in Pierce County Superior Court on Tuesday.
Pvt. Jeremiah Hill, 23, is to remain in Pierce County Jail in lieu of $2 million in bail, a court commissioner ordered.
Charging documents say he had a visible wound to his hand when investigators arrested him, and that Hill told a medic he got it when he “stabbed someone to death” He did not speak in court except to say he understood the charges.
Hill’s confinement brought a sense of relief to several of Geike’s friends who attended an arraignment for Hill and two of his alleged accomplices.
Geike “deserves to know his killer is behind bars or on death row,” said Amy Johnson, who is engaged to one of the soldiers who accompanied Geike on the night of his death.
One of Hill’s alleged accomplices, Spc. Ajoni Runnion-Bareford, 21, of Islesboro, Maine, remained confined in lieu of $250,000 in bail. The other, Pfc. Cedarium Johnson, was released on his own recognizance but must remain at Lewis-McChord except for his court appearances.
Johnson’s attorney argued the charge of rendering criminal assistance was unwarranted because Johnson had tried to defuse the altercation and did not help Hill murder Geike. Charging documents allege he directed Hill to throw away the knife he reportedly used to stab Geike.
Runnion-Bareford allegedly drove the car away from the murder scene, and later used bleach to clean up blood stains inside the vehicle.
All of the suspects serve in the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division at Lewis-McChord. Two more soldiers who were with them in a car on the night of the killing are cooperating with the investigation and will not face criminal charges.
Hill, 23, of Chicago was new to the brigade and had not deployed. He joined the Army this year. Runnion-Bareford, Johnson, 21, of Tyler, Texas, deployed to Afghanistan with the 3rd Brigade last year on its most recent overseas mission.
Geike, 20, served in the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade at the base. The two friends who were walking with him late Friday and early Saturday belonged to other units under the umbrella of the base’s 7th Infantry Division, which also commands the 3rd Brigade.
Those relationships stung Geike’s friends, who said they could not understand how a fellow soldier would murder one of his own.
“Every one of those five men swore a sacred oath to this country,” said Kimberly Turnipseed, a friend of Geike’s, referring to the men in the car with Hill. “And they became the enemy.”
The three suspects are each due in court later this month and could go to trial as early as December. Their arraignment drew a courtroom packed with local and national reporters, as well as Geike’s friends and Johnson’s family.
Johnson’s mother, Rona Taylor, flew in from Texas to attend the hearing. She bowed her head and clutched a banister while Commissioner Meagan Foley considered his attorney’s request to release him. She said “thank you” when Foley agreed.
Turnipseed at the same moment exclaimed, “What!” in disbelief that any of the suspects would be allowed out of jail.
Charging documents allege that Hill was among a group of five soldiers in a car who shouted something at Geike and his two friends while they were walking along Pacific Avenue Southwest.
Someone in Geike’s group shouted back, and the car pulled up near the walking soldiers. They reportedly exchanged words but the discussion appeared to end without a fight once the two groups realized they were all active-duty soldiers, according to witness statements.
That’s when Hill allegedly grabbed Geike and knifed him in the chest, plunging the blade into the soldier’s heart.
Lakewood police initially said the incident was a possible hate crime carried out by black men against white soldiers because the group in the car might have shouted something at Geike and his friends regarding their race.
The charging documents back away from that assertion. A witness told investigators “someone from the vehicle yelled something, which (the witness) couldn’t remember but the (witness) understood that someone was making ‘hateful remarks’ at them.”
Turnipseed after the hearing told reporters that she believed race was a factor in the killing.
Pierce County Chief Prosecuting Attorney Mark Lindquist said he would charge that crime if the facts in witness statements warrant it. They do not, he said.
“There’s just no basis to charge a hate crime,” he said.
Distributed by MCT Information Services