TACOMA – Army Pvt. Jeremiah Hill, 23, of Chicago, was charged with first-degree murder Tuesday and two other soldiers were charged with rendering criminal assistance for allegedly tampering with evidence in the “senseless and sad” stabbing death of fellow soldier Tevin Geike, 20, on a street early Saturday in Lakewood. All three pleaded not guilty.
Bail was set at $2 million for Hill and $250,000 for Army Spc. Ajoni Runnion-Bareford, 21, of Islesboro, Maine, who was charged with rendering criminal assistance.
Army Pfc. Cedarium Johnson, 21, of Tyler Texas, who was also charged with rendering criminal assistance and who has no prior criminal history, was released to Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
The victim and defendants are all active-duty soldiers stationed at JBLM.
“This was a senseless and sad murder where a soldier killed a fellow soldier for no reason,” Pierce County prosecutor Mark Lindquist said. “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.”
At about 2:30 a.m. Saturday, Army Spc. Geike, of Summerville, S.C., and two fellow soldiers were walking in the 12500 block of Pacific Ave SW in Lakewood after leaving a party at a nearby motel, the prosecutor’s office said.
“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,” the prosecutor’s office said in a news release. “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. Defendant Hill 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,” the news release said.
“Hill was covered in blood and told the car’s occupants that he ‘cut’ the victim. Defendant Johnson ordered the car’s driver to proceed to Tillicum, where he then told defendant 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.
“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,'” the release said. “Investigators recovered bloody clothing from Hill’s and Johnson’s rooms and also recovered the knife from a roadside in Tillicum.”
The prosecutor’s office said 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. Two other occupants who were in the vehicle were fully cooperative, the prosecutor’s office said, 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.