An Army jury Wednesday convicted a Joint Base Lewis-McChord infantryman of murder without premeditation in the slaying of a fellow soldier on a Lakewood street. He was then sentenced to 45 years in prison but will be eligible for parole in less than nine years, with credit for time served.
Pvt. Jeremiah Hill, 24, was spared from the mandatory life sentence he would have received if he’d been found guilty of premeditated murder in the death of Spc. Tevin Geike, 20.
The six-officer jury also found Hill not guilty of charges of obstructing an investigation and involuntary manslaughter.
In brief words to Geike’s family, Hill stood at the defendant’s table and took responsibility for the other soldier’s death.
“You’re not responsible. I am. I’m sorry about the death,” Hill said. “I killed him. There’s nothing to do to take it back.”
Geike and Hill crossed paths in the early hours of Oct. 5, 2013. Geike and two infantry buddies were walking on Pacific Highway South to return to a party; Hill and four friends from his JBLM Stryker brigade were driving around after a night of partying.
Someone from the car shouted at the soldiers on the street and a standoff ensued until all eight men realized they served in the military. That’s when Hill made his move toward Geike.
Hill’s guilt hinged on whether jurors believed him when he testified that he stabbed Geike while trying to defend himself from a blade in Geike’s hand.
In closing arguments, Army prosecutors Wednesday ridiculed that claim.
“Everything (Hill) told you with few exceptions was a lie,” Capt. Patrick Sandys, the Army prosecutor, said.
The prosecutor said Hill stalked Geike from the back, plunged a knife in the younger man’s upper left chest and then injured his own hand when his thumb slipped on the blade.
The prosecutor’s description countered Hill’s claim that Geike held a blade and that it slashed Hill’s right hand before Hill stabbed Geike with his left hand.
Defense attorney Capt. Austin Fenwick maintained that Hill’s story was the most accurate description of what happened in the moments leading up to Geike’s death.
Fenwick cast the six witnesses who testified this week as misleading. He charged that Geike’s buddies wanted to honor their friend while the soldiers who were with Hill that night gave the jury self-serving statements.
THREE KNIVES FOUND
Police recovered three knives from the scene. One was buckled into the victim’s belt. No other witness reported seeing Geike carrying a knife in his hand when Hill approached him.
The courtroom at JBLM was filled Wednesday with Geike’s family, local friends and a group of soldiers from his old unit, the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade. Several of Hill’s loved ones sat on the other side of the room. Hill is a Stryker soldier with the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.
Geike’s parents mourned him in court, saying they wished they could talk to him again.
“I want him right here next to me,” said his adopted mother, Jennifer Rose of South Carolina.
Hill’s mother and sister apologized to the Geike family. “From one mother to another, I’m really sorry that you have to go through this,” Angelic Hill of Chicago said.
Hill’s closing words asked the jury and Geike’s family not to think of him the way he was portrayed in court, as a callous thug.
“Regardless of everything that’s been said about me, try to think differently about me,” Hill said to Geike’s family. “I am sorry. I am sorry.”