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'He could have shot me:' Second witness recalls night of Hannah Bender’s death on day two of Stryker trial
Dylan Patrick Reid
Dylan Patrick Reid, who’s already been convicted in the Hannah Bender case, spoke Wednesday about Austin Stryker’s alleged role in Bender’s 2019 death and his own role in hiding evidence.

During Austin Stryker’s trial Wednesday, a narrative began to emerge around Hannah Bender’s 2019 killing as Dylan Reid testified that the victim may not have been planning on going to police regarding alleged armed robberies done earlier that year as part of a gang called “THIS.”

The trial is ongoing before Northeastern Circuit Superior Court Judge Kathlene Gosselin at a courtroom within the Dawson County Government Center. 

Past and present defendants

Stryker and Jerry Harper, also known as Kyle, are co-defendants. Harper’s time in the trial has not come yet. 

Stryker has been charged with malice murder; felony murder; aggravated assault; aggravated battery; possessing a firearm and knife during commission of a felony; violations of Georgia’s Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act; concealing the death of another; and tampering with evidence. 

Harper has been charged with three street gang violation counts; hindering the apprehension or punishment of a criminal and theft by receiving stolen property.

Most of the testimony has focused on Stryker and his alleged connection to Bender’s murder. 

Reid, along with Isaac Huff, pleaded guilty in April 2021 for their roles in Bender’s murder. Reid was sentenced to 15 years in prison and 20 years of probation for being a party to aggravated assault, aggravated battery, tampering with evidence, concealing the death of another and a violation of Georgia’s Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act.

Huff will spend 12 years in prison and 18 years on probation after being convicted of a street gang violation and being a party to aggravated assault, aggravated battery and concealing the death of another. 

During an inquiry from Johnson, Reid said his testimony on Wednesday, Nov. 3, was the same as during his plea hearing and to a GBI investigator “for the most part.” 

Reid lying on the stand while testifying could compromise his plea deal. 

When ADA Sachdeva followed up, Reid confirmed that Huff rather than Stryker said what happened in the truck the night of Bender’s death, contradicting his plea hearing testimony that Stryker told him. 

Reid confirmed his telling investigators about where Bender was buried and taking them to the Forsyth Co. location. 

During questioning, Stryker’s defense attorney, Brock Johnson, brought up a failed robbery attempt in Stockbridge where Reid went to pick up Stryker and Huff after their vehicle ran out of gas. During that time, Reid heard Stryker mention concerns about Bailey Williams, not Bender, being a “snitch.”

Around the time of Hannah Bender’s murder, Reid recalled Stryker mentioning both a blonde-haired snitch and Bender in the same context. 

“I remember [Stryker] saying that once he killed Hannah, he would be sure who the snitch was,” Reid said. 

Reid’s testimony lined up with Huff’s regarding the gang. He also claimed that Williams, who’s also been charged in the case, had taken a blood oath but not gotten a signature handprint tattoo. 

Like Huff, Reid said Stryker occasionally carried around a black Ruger .380 with a red trigger belonging to Robert Youngblood. Reid said he saw Stryker with the handgun two weeks prior to Bender’s murder. 


Night of Bender’s death

The night of Sept. 14, 2019, Reid said he drank a little but said he saw Huff sober while Stryker consumed alcohol and methamphetamine.

Before Stryker left Huff’s house around midnight, Reid testified that Stryker said, “You never know. I might need it,” before he took the Ruger handgun. 

Reid reportedly ended up going from Huff’s basement to an upstairs bedroom, and he was awoken between 5 and 6 a.m. on Sept. 15 by Huff, who ran up the stairs and, after having trouble speaking, told his friend to get downstairs and mentioned something about a body. 

Reid added he didn’t know the body would be Bender’s but assumed it might be. The witness repeated what Huff told him about Bender getting shot mid-sentence and Stryker jumping into the passenger seat and telling Huff to go. 

When Reid went outside, he said a shirtless Stryker was wiping a knife on the ground. The knife was reportedly Reid’s and had been sitting in Youngblood’s black Mazda pickup truck, in which they all regularly rode. 

Reid described Stryker’s demeanor as more composed than Huff’s. When asked why he didn’t call 911, Reid brought up his aversion to asking law enforcement for help.

“I know that if I’d called 911 sooner, we probably wouldn't be in this situation. I just thought about the trouble I’d be getting into,” Reid said. 

Upon approaching the truck, Reid described seeing Bender slumped over in the back seat with the head wound but not seeing the blood in the car. 

“I smelled it more than anything, but I saw it on her ... it’s sickening,” Reid said. “You won’t forget it.” 

Reid said he helped Stryker move Bender’s body out of the truck, wrap her in a blanket and take her to the fire pit. They took off the clothes they were wearing and told Huff to burn the items. 

The witness said during the prosecution’s questioning they thought Bender might have been alive when they wrapped her body in the blanket before moving her. He clarified during the cross-examination by Johnson that he “didn’t believe her to be alive” because of her head wound. 

The morning of Sept. 16, Reid said he talked with Stryker at Huff’s and assisted with putting Bender’s body into the toolbox that came from the bed of the Mazda pickup truck. Enroute to Youngblood’s residence off Blacks Mill Road in Dawson County, Stryker’s wife Elizabeth Donaldson drove, Reid sat in the passenger seat and Stryker in the back with his young son. According to testimony, the windows of the Ford Explorer had to be kept down to circulate air and alleviate the odor coming from the toolbox. 

Reid put the toolbox from the car between an old camper and shed. He said he then helped Stryker remove the driver’s seat, carpet and wall panels from the truck and place them in the Ford Explorer. The truck was left at Youngblood’s property. 

According to the testimony, Williams was later contacted before Huff, Reid and Stryker picked her up and disposed of the truck parts off Grizzle Road in Dawson County. 

About a week later, Reid was at a friends in Dawsonville when Stryker drove up and reportedly asked for his help with the body. They then went to where Stryker had moved the body off of Parks Road in north Forsyth County. 

Reid agreed to put dirt on top of Bender’s shallow grave but refused Stryker’s request to dismember her body. Reid said he also refused to take Stryker to a friend’s house in West Virginia, with Jerry Harper instead being the one to allegedly take Stryker there. 

Reid spoke to attorneys from both sides about his fears in connection with the murder. He said he helped Stryker because of their mutual long term friendship and not because of “THIS.” 

Sachdeva followed up by reminding Reid of his April testimony, where he did express fear at what Stryker could do. 

“‘Anything could happen. He could have shot me,’” Reid added in response. 

“At your plea hearing, you testified that [Stryker] was the type of person who could kill. Were you lying about that?” said Sachdeva.

“No,” said Reid. 

 

What’s next in the trial

Following a discussion about blood and DNA analysis, the state’s medical examiner will take the stand tomorrow morning. Others will also take the stand to discuss evidence. 

Judge Gosselin also discussed possible jury instructions regarding the graphic pictures from Bender’s discovery and autopsy. That concern has also been mentioned during jury selection and a pre-trial motion. 

Sachdeva suggested that the prosecution can offer further context by asking the medical examiner a few questions to broach the subject.