SAVANNAH, GA: A former U.S. Army sergeant who admitted he stabbed to death a former fellow soldier in his Fort Stewart barracks room has been sentenced to life in federal prison.
Byron Booker, 29, of Ludowici, Ga., was sentenced to life in prison after previously pleading guilty to Premeditated Murder of a Member of the United States Uniformed Services, said David H. Estes, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. U.S. District Court Judge R. Stan Baker also ordered Booker to pay a fine of $2,500 and to serve five years of supervised release upon completion of his prison sentence.
There is no parole in the federal system.
“Byron Booker squandered his own military career by illegally using drugs, and then murdered a former fellow soldier in cold blood in retaliation for that soldier honorably performing his duties,” said U.S. Attorney Estes, a retired U.S. Army Colonel. “The sentence of life in prison with no parole will serve a measure of justice for Austin Hawk’s family, while affirming the outstanding investigative work that led to Booker’s conviction.”
Booker’s co-defendant, Jordan Brown, 21, of St. Marys, Ga., awaits sentencing after entering a plea of guilty in December 2022 to Assault Upon a U.S. Servicemember Involving Bodily Injury or a Deadly Weapon, and Retaliation Against a Witness Involving Bodily Injury.
As described in court testimony and in the plea agreements for the defendants, Booker, a former U.S. Army sergeant, admitted he and Brown discussed “silencing” Specialist Austin J. Hawk, 21, at Fort Stewart Military Reservation in retaliation for Hawk reporting Brown to U.S. Army leadership for marijuana use. After gaining entry to Hawk’s barracks room shortly after midnight on June 17, 2020, Booker “slashed and stabbed Hawk repeatedly with a sharp-edged weapon.” A medical examiner noted that Hawk received 40 separate stab or slash wounds, many of them that individually would have been fatal, and cut his own hand during the assault.
Hawk’s body was found in his Fort Stewart barracks room the next day.
“This sentence holds Booker accountable for his actions and hopefully brings some closure to the victim’s family,” said Rusty Higgason, assistant special agent-in-charge of the Department of the Army Criminal Investigation Division’s Southeast Field Office. “This complex investigation is a great example of the close teamwork among Army CID, the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory, FBI, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Georgia.”
“This sentence represents a measure of justice for Austin Hawk, a man who was murdered for simply following the rules,” said Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “Hawk’s family and friends will never be rid of the pain this senseless murder has caused them, but hopefully it gives them some sense of resolve to know that Booker will spend the rest of his life in prison.”
U.S. Attorney Estes also commended the work of CID Forensic Science Technicians from Fort Stewart, Fort Bragg, Fort Gordon, and Fort Jackson, and from the analysts with the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory and the FBI Crime Lab.
The Department of the Army Criminal Investigation Division and the FBI are investigating the case, which is being prosecuted for the United States by Southern District of Georgia Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jennifer G. Solari and Darron J. Hubbard.