ISLESBORO, Maine — A soldier from a Maine island pleaded guilty this week in Washington state to acting as an accomplice in the murder last fall of another soldier after an altercation broke out between two groups of troops stationed at Fort Lewis.
Spc. Ajoni Runnion-Bareford, 22, of Islesboro was sentenced Wednesday at the Pierce County Superior Court in Tacoma, Washington, to 12 months in jail on the charge of rendering criminal assistance in the first degree in the stabbing death of Spc. Tevin Geike. Runnion-Bareford will receive credit for the 308 days he has served, according to a court official.
“All I have left of my son is a video I watch all the time and his tombstone. My youngest has nightmares and constant ‘why’ questions,” Troy Geike, the victim’s father, said in an impact statement submitted to the court. “The worse thing is the fact that a crime as bad as murder can take so long to find justice … I found that Washington state is the only place where a murderer has more rights than the victim, and those who assist just receive a slap on the hand.”
According to the Pierce County prosecutor, a witness told police that Geike, 20, had been walking along a road in Lakewood, Washington, with two friends on the night of Oct. 5 when someone in a vehicle yelled ‘hateful remarks’ at them. The men in the vehicle were black and Hispanic, and the men on foot were white.
“One of the walkers yelled back something related to being ‘combat veterans.’ The victim and his friends are members of the United States Army,” Philip K. Sorensen, the deputy prosecuting attorney for Pierce County, said in the declaration for determination of probable cause that was filed on Oct. 8.
After words were exchanged, the prosecutor said, the vehicle pulled over, and four of the five men in the car got out and walked toward Geike and his friends. One of the men in the vehicle, later identified as Jeremiah Hill, “grabbed Mr. Geike and threw him to the ground,” Sorensen said. The men, including the three who later were charged — Runnion-Bareford, Hill and Cedarium Johnson — fled to the vehicle and drove away, according to the probable cause affidavit.
“At that point, the victim’s friends realized that Mr. Geike had been stabbed,” the prosecutor said in the the probable cause affidavit.
Johnson told police detectives later that when he and his group of friends were moving back toward their sedan, Hill moved behind Geike, put him in a “bear hug” and then pushed him to the ground, according to the probable cause affidavit. When Hill got into the car, he was covered in blood, Sorensen said, and told the others that he had cut Geike. Johnson told Runnion-Bareford to throw the knife from the car, and the Maine man threw it into the underbrush, according to the the probable cause affidavit.
“Runnion-Bareford also told investigators that after returning to post, Runnion-Bareford tried to clean up blood from the car,” Sorensen said in the the affidavit. “He parked the car several blocks from his barracks to avoid detection. Once he learned that Hill had been arrested, he again tried to clean the car, this time using bleach. Investigators said when they spoke to Runnion-Bareford, he smelled like bleach.”
Sorensen said in the the probable cause affidavit that all the suspects except Hill agreed that Geike had not done anything to warrant an attack.
Hill was charged with murder in the first degree after the attack and has been held at Pierce County Jail in lieu of $2 million bail, although his charge was amended to murder in the second degree on April 23, according to a court official. His trial is scheduled for Dec. 1.
Johnson, who also was charged with rendering criminal assistance, is awaiting his own trial.
According to the sentence handed down on Wednesday, Runnion-Bareford is required to pay court fees of $1,050, and he also had to write what made him guilty of the crime.
“I was with a group of soldiers and somebody had stabbed another person, and I took the knife and threw it from the car,” Runnion-Bareford wrote. “I knew I should not have done that because it would interfere with the investigation.”