Ex-Army sergeant pleads guilty to barracks knife slaying

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — A former Army sergeant faces life in prison after pleading guilty to a federal murder charge in the killing of a fellow soldier found dead in his barracks from dozens of cuts and stab wounds.

Byron Booker, 29, acknowledged as part of a plea deal that he killed 21-year-old Army Spc. Austin Hawk at Fort Stewart, Georgia, after plotting with another soldier whom Hawk had reported to superiors for smoking marijuana.

The June 2020 killing happened barely a month after Booker was honorably discharged from the Army after completing his time on active duty, according to court records. Prosecutors said Jordan Brown, a soldier from Booker’s former unit, came to Booker complaining that Hawk had ruined his life by reporting him for drug use. Brown said he was being kicked out of the Army.

According to documents in the plea deal, Hawk was alone in his barracks room when Booker got him to open the door after midnight on June 17, 2020. Booker repeatedly slashed and stabbed Hawk with an unspecified sharp weapon. The medical examiner counted 40 wounds, including a fatal gash across Hawk’s throat.

Booker appeared Tuesday before U.S. District Court Judge R. Stan Baker in Savannah to plead guilty to a charge of premeditated murder of a member of the U.S. military. The charge carries an automatic sentence of life in prison.

Brown has pleaded not guilty to premeditated murder charges and other counts related to Hawk’s death. Court records say Brown was in his own barracks room at the time of the killing. His case is still pending.

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