Jeremiah Hill, 23, is escorted by a Pierce County Correction Officer at his arraignment Tuesday in Pierce County Superior Court in Tacoma, Wash. Hill is charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Spc. Tevin Geike. (Lui Kit Wong / AP)
TACOMA, WASH. — A 23-year-old Washington-based soldier accused of fatally stabbing a fellow soldier in the heart after a verbal confrontation has been charged with first-degree murder.
Prosecutors charged Jeremiah Hill on Tuesday, saying he approached Spc. Tevin Geike from behind and attacked him early Saturday just as a confrontation between two groups in Lakewood, Wash., was calming down.
Authorities also charged Cedarium Johnson, 21, and Ajoni Runnion-Bareford, 21, with rendering criminal assistance, saying they helped dispose of the murder weapon.
All three men pleaded not guilty in Pierce County Superior Court. Hill was held on $2 million bail. Deputy Prosecutor Phil Sorensen told the court that Hill’s “only ties with the community are through the military.”
The suspects and victim in the case were all soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Hill is from Chicago and joined the Army this year, The News Tribune reported. Runnion-Bareford is from Islesboro, Maine, and Johnson is from Tyler, Texas.
An autopsy determined that Geike, 20, suffered a deep stab wound to his chest that cut through a rib and plunged through his heart, prosecutors said in charging documents.
Bail for Runnion-Bareford was set at $250,000.
Johnson’s attorney asked that his client be released and contained within the base. Johnson’s mother, Rona Taylor, flew from Texas to attend the hearing, according to The News Tribune. She bowed her head and clutched a banister while Court Commissioner Meagan Foley considered the request to release him, and said “thank you” when Foley agreed.
Geike, of Summerville, S.C., was walking with two other soldiers early Saturday when words were exchanged with someone in a car. The vehicle, containing five people, stopped and four of the occupants got out to confront the three, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said the groups were separating after realizing they were all active duty soldiers when Geike was fatally stabbed.
Two of the five suspects are cooperating with law enforcement and were not being held in custody, authorities said.
Prosecutors said the suspects eventually discarded the knife that was used in the attack. Investigators believe they have found the weapon.
Outside the courtroom Tuesday, Amy Johnson, a friend of Geike’s, said the victim “deserves his justice.”
“He deserves to know his killer is put behind bars or put on death row,” she said.