A soldier from Maine who disposed of a knife that Washington state authorities say was used in the murder of another soldier was sentenced to a year in prison for his role in the killing.
Army Spc. Ajoni Runnion-Bareford, 22, of Islesboro, who was based at Fort Lewis, Washington, pleaded guilty Wednesday in Pierce County Superior Court in Tacoma, Washington, to a charge of rendering criminal assistance in the first degree, a charge commonly referred to in other states as being an accessory after the fact.
Runnion-Bareford has been in jail since his arrest after the Oct. 5, 2013, stabbing of a fellow soldier, Tevin Geike. He received 308 days’ jail credit for time he has already served, according to court records online.
“I found that Washington state is the only place where a murderer has more rights than the victim and those who assist just receive a slap on the hand,” the dead soldier’s father, Troy Geike, said in a letter to the court. “So this whole ordeal has turned my life upside down, sideways and twisted. Those reading this, please put yourself in my shoes, … have your child stabbed to death.”
Runnion-Bareford was driving a car carrying four other soldiers who got into an argument with three men walking on a street around 2:40 a.m. after a night out in the nearby city of Lakewood, according to a document filed last year by the Pierce County, Washington, Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
Runnion-Bareford stopped the car and got out with three of his friends to confront the three men walking. He and two of his friends backed off after realizing that the men were also soldiers, according to the document, which was filed by Pierce County Deputy Prosecutor Philip Sorensen.
One of the men from the car, Jeremiah Hill, grabbed one of the walkers, 20-year-old Geike, and put him in what witnesses called a “bear hug,” then returned to the car covered in blood, Sorensen said in the court filing.
Hill, who was 23 at the time, told the others as he got in the car that he “cut” the victim, and they drove away. As they went south on Interstate 5, Runnion-Bareford took the knife from Hill and threw it into brush along the highway, Sorensen said. He later told police that he had done so.
Geike, of South Carolina, was declared dead at the scene. An autopsy determined that he suffered “a deep stab wound to the front chest that cut through a rib and plunged through his heart,” the prosecutor said in his filing.
While police were investigating, Runnion-Bareford allegedly returned to his post at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and tried to clean the blood from his car.
“He parked the car several blocks from his barracks to avoid detection,” Sorensen said in his filing. “Once he learned that Hill had been arrested he again tried to clean the car of blood, this time using bleach. Investigators said when they spoke to Runnion-Bareford, (he) smelled like bleach.”
Judge Thomas Felnagle, who sentenced Runnion-Bareford, also ordered him to pay $1,200 in court fees and assessments.
Hill, who joined the Army last year and is from Chicago, is charged with murder in the second degree and remains in custody pending his scheduled trial Dec. 1.
Another man who was charged with rendering assistance in connection with the killing, Cadarium Johnson, then 21, of Texas, was freed after his arrest. He is also scheduled to stand trial Dec. 1.