Today, Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist charged Jeremiah Hill, 23, with Murder in the First Degree in the stabbing death of Tevin Geike, 20. Cedarium Johnson, 21, and Ajoni Runnion-Bareford, 21, were charged with Rendering Criminal Assistance for tampering with evidence. The victim and defendants are all active duty soldiers stationed at Joint Base Lewis McChord.
“This was a senseless and sad murder where a soldier killed a fellow soldier for no reason,” said Prosecutor Mark Lindquist. “Our prayers go out to the family and friends of Specialist Geike. He served our country honorably, and it breaks our hearts to see him lose his life in a cowardly street stabbing.”
On Oct. 5, at approximately 2:30am, Geike and two fellow soldiers were walking in the 12500 block of Pacific Ave SW after leaving a gathering at a nearby motel. According to a witness, the car passed by the three friends and someone from the vehicle made an unspecified racial slur towards the men on foot. Witnesses could not recall what was actually said. The victim and his friends responded that they were combat veterans. The vehicle pulled over, and four of the five men got out and approached Geike and his friends. Once it was established that all parties were active duty soldiers, the occupants of the vehicle began to walk back to the car. It appeared the confrontation had defused.
Hill allegedly then grabbed the victim, put him in a “bear hug” hold, and stabbed him twice. Hill got back into the car, and the vehicle and its occupants left the scene, according to the charges.
Hill was covered in blood and told the car’s occupants that he “cut” the victim. Johnson ordered the car’s driver to proceed to Tillicum, where he then told Runnion-Bareford to throw the knife into the roadside brush. The vehicle belonged to Runnion-Bareford, so when the suspects returned to JBLM, Runnion-Bareford attempted to clean the blood from his vehicle, and parked it several blocks from his barracks to avoid detection, prosecutors allege. Over the weekend, Hill requested assistance from an Army medic to treat a cut on his hand. Hill told the medic that he suffered the cut to his hand when he “stabbed someone to death.” Investigators recovered bloody clothing from Hill’s and Johnson’s rooms and also recovered the knife from a roadside in Tillicum.
The two suspects who spoke to investigators said race was not a motivating factor in the assault, and the victim’s friends said that the initial slur was the only race-related language used. The other two occupants in the vehicle were fully-cooperative and detectives do not believe they participated in the stabbing or tampered with evidence. They will not be charged.
An autopsy showed that Geike suffered a superficial stab wound to his right side, followed by a deep stab wound to the front of his chest, which struck his heart.
The defendants were arraigned today. The three plead “not guilty.” Bail was set at $2 million for Hill and $250,000 for Runnion-Bareford. Johnson was released to Joint Base Lewis McChord. Charges are only allegations and a person is presumed innocent unless he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.