DAWSON COUNTY, Ga. — Four men were arraigned in Dawson County Superior Court March 12 in connection with the death of a young Lumpkin County woman last fall.
Jerry Kyle Harper, 78, Isaac Thomas Huff, 18, Dylan Patrick Reid, 19, and Austin Todd Stryker, 24, entered their pleas in Dawson County Superior Court on March 12 to charges in the murder of Hannah Bender last fall.
Bender vanished nearly a week before her body was found off Parks Road near Ga. 306 in Forsyth County in September.
Harper and Stryker waived their rights to an arraignment, meaning they did not face the judge or have the charges read to them. Instead, their attorneys filed pleas of not guilty on behalf of their clients.
Huff’s attorney, Daniel Sammons, filed a special demurrer on behalf of his client before entering a plea. A demurrer, Sammons said, is a method to challenge the legal effectiveness of the language in an indictment.
Huff is charged with a number of counts, including felony murder — as an individual and as party to a crime, Sammons said in a phone interview. Under current statutes, there are four different acts to define “party to a crime” and prosecutors didn’t specify under which statute his client is a “party to a crime,” Sammons said.
Dawson County Superior Court Judge Kathlene Gosselin indicated that she would rule on the demurrer later or set a hearing to settle the matter.
Elise Hoyle, Reid’s attorney, was not present for the arraignment, but Zack Tumlin, an associate, offered to reach out to Hoyle and then stepped out of the courtroom. When he returned, Tumlin read a text message from Hoyle indicating that she was 90 minutes away in Habersham County, and she had not received notice of Reid’s arraignment. Hoyle’s text also said she would file a not guilty plea on behalf of her client by the end of the day if necessary.
The judge asked Reid when he’d last seen his attorney. Reid replied that he hadn’t seen her in the six months he’s been held at the Dawson County Jail.
Judge Gosselin allowed Tumlin to enter the not guilty plea on behalf of Reid.
“She needs to come see her client,” Gosselin told Tumlin.
A Dawson County grand jury indicted the four men in December in connection with the murder.
Stryker, the main suspect in the disappearance and murder of Bender, is charged with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, aggravated battery, violation of the street gang terrorism and prevention act, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, possession of a knife during the commission of a felony, concealing the death of another and tampering with evidence.
Huff and Reid face charges including felony murder, aggravated assault, aggravated battery and concealing the death of another.
Harper is charged with violation of the street gang terrorism and prevention act, hindering the apprehension or punishment of a criminal and theft by receiving stolen property. He has been also been charged in Forsyth County for concealing the death of another and tampering with evidence.
All four are in the Dawson County Detention Center.
Two others are charged in connection with the case.
Bailey Williams, 21, was arrested in Lumpkin County October 1 on charges of tampering with evidence.
Stryker’s fiancée, Elizabeth Brooke Donaldson, is charged with tampering with evidence and concealing the death of another.