RUSSELL COUNTY, Ala. (WRBL) – A Russell County man and Fort Benning soldier faces a Reckless Murder charge after investigators say he made the five-year-old son of his live-in girlfriend get out of a vehicle because he was “being unruly,” leading to the boy being struck by another vehicle on a busy highway on a dark, rainy night.
Russell County Sheriff’s investigators say the deadly crash happened Sunday night around 8:00 PM along Hwy 165, near County Road 24. The little boy has been identified as Austin Birdseye.
According to investigators, 35-year-old Bryan Starr told detectives the child was being unruly in the vehicle, so he pulled over in the rain at a church and told the boy to get out. Starr told investigators he lost track of the boy in the rain. Investigators say the boy wandered onto the busy highway and was struck by another vehicle. Birdseye died later at Piedmont Columbus Regional.
“It’s just horrific. I can’t imagine the mother’s grief that she is going through. It’s just tough. What do you say to that? What is your thought process when you tell a five-year-old to get out of the car on a rainy night because they were loud in the car? It’s just heartbreaking,” said Taylor.
Sheriff Taylor says the driver of the vehicle who hit Birdseye was not at fault and is devastated.
Taylor says Birdseye’s mother was not in the vehicle at the time of the deadly incident. Starr and Birdseye were just a few miles away from the home the couple shares in Fort Mitchell when Starr told the child to get out of the vehicle.
Sheriff Taylor says he does not know how long the child was outside of the vehicle before being hit. Investigators are pulling video from the church parking lot.
Starr was questioned by police at the hospital when he shared the events with investigators. Sheriff Taylor says Starr is in the process of being arrested and will be booked into the Russell County Detention Facility, where a mug shot will be made public. Sheriff Taylor says Starr will be eligible for a bond.
Sheriff Taylor is unaware of details involving Starr’s military career at Fort Benning. News 3 has reached out to Fort Benning for more information. Meanwhile, Sheriff Taylor says he is not aware of any prior law enforcement dealings with Starr.
Alabama Troopers are investigating the crash along with the Russell County Sheriff’s Office.
A Fort Benning spokesperson released the following statement regarding the incident and Sgt. Bryan Starr:
Sgt. 1st Class Bryan Starr turned himself into the Russell County, Alabama, sheriff’s office regarding the tragic death of a 5-year-old boy in his care.
Fort Benning is cooperating with local law enforcement officials.
Starr, 35, from Marengo, Illinois, is assigned to 3rd Squadron, 16th
Cavalry Regiment, 316th
Cavalry Brigade, has 17 years of service. His previous assignments include the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California; Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Knox, Kentucky; and Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.
He has one combat deployment to Iraq.
We are deeply saddened by this tragic event and extend our heartfelt condolences to the family of the deceased.Ben Garrett, Maneuver Center of Excellence Public Affairs
News 3 will continue to update you.