RUSSELL COUNTY, Ala. (WRBL) – A Russell County man and Fort Benning soldier faces a reckless murder charge after investigators say he made the 5-year-old son of his live-in girlfriend get out of a vehicle because he was “being unruly.”
This led to the boy being struck by another vehicle on a busy highway on a dark, rainy night.
Russell County Sheriff’s investigators said the deadly crash happened Sunday night around 8:00 p.m. along Highway 165, near County Road 24. The little boy has been identified as Austin Birdseye.
According to investigators, Bryan Starr, 35, 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 said the boy wandered onto the busy highway and was struck by another vehicle.
Birdseye died later at Piedmont Columbus Regional.
“It’s just horrific,” Sheriff Heath Taylor said. “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.”
Taylor said the driver of the vehicle who hit Birdseye was not at fault and is devastated.
The sheriff said 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.
Taylor said 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. Taylor said 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. Starr will be eligible for a bond.
The sheriff is unaware of details involving Starr’s military career at Fort Benning. Sister station WRBL reached out to Fort Benning for more information. Meanwhile, Taylor said 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.