Pierce County has dropped its prosecution and relinquished control to the Army in the case of a Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier who allegedly stabbed one of his peers to death in Lakewood last year.
Pvt. Jeremiah Hill, 24, last week was transferred to the Army jail at JBLM, where he is awaiting new charges. He has been in confinement since his arrest 14 months ago.
Hill allegedly knifed Spc. Tevin Geike in the heart in the early hours of Oct. 5, 2013. It was a seemingly random attack because the soldiers did not know each other, according to Geike’s friends.
Pierce County initially charged Hill with murder, and it accused two other soldiers of helping Hill hide evidence.
The county later lessened its charges against Hill, opting to prosecute him for second-degree murder. The change reflected a lack of evidence that Hill planned to kill Geike.
One accomplice, Spc. Ajoni Runion Bareford, in August pleaded guilty to providing criminal assistance to Hill. He has since been released from jail and is awaiting a discharge from the Army at JBLM, said 7th Infantry Division spokesman Lt. Col. William Coppernoll.
Pierce County also has transferred its prosecution of the other alleged accomplice, Pfc. Cedarium Johnson, to the Army. Johnson is serving in the 7th Infantry Division, and the Army has not filed new criminal charges against him, Coppernoll said.
Johnson has maintained that he did not help murder Geike and that he tried to defuse the confrontation that led to the soldier’s death.
Moving Hill’s case to the Army’s control could help Geike’s family make use of victims’ resources for military families, said John Sheeran, a deputy prosecutor with Pierce County. That could include providing reimbursement for travel expenses. Geike’s relatives mostly live in Kansas and South Carolina.
“The Army wanted the case, and they were in a better position to support the out-of-state family of the victim,” Sheeran said. “The family understood this, and we’re happy with the Army prosecuting the defendants.”
On the night of the killing, Geike and two friends were walking in the 12500 block of Pacific Highway Southwest when they were approached by Hill and four other soldiers in a car. The two groups exchanged words but appeared to be avoiding a fight when Hill walked up to Geike and stabbed him in the chest, according to police reports.
Hill joined the Army in April 2013 and was assigned to JBLM’s 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. Geike, 20, was serving in JBLM’s 16th Combat Aviation Brigade.
Geike’s family has struggled with the senselessness of the soldier’s death. Several wrote statements to the prosecutor’s office in August in which they urged attorneys to try to put Hill in prison for life.
“What hurts the most is not only not knowing why it happened, but that he was murdered at the hands of another soldier — one that Tevin was supposed to be able to trust the most,” wrote his aunt, Donita Oliveras.