Fort Benning Soldier Faces Murder Charge After 'Unruly' Boy Forced Out of Vehicle and Hit on Highway

A veteran soldier is facing a reckless murder charge after he allegedly told his girlfriend's 5-year-old son get out of a vehicle shortly before the boy was struck and killed on a highway.

Bryan Starr, 35, was questioned after the Russell County Sheriff's Office investigated a crash which occurred along Highway 165, near County Road 24, in Alabama around 8 p.m. last Sunday.

Starr told detectives that the boy, who was later identified as Austin Birdseye, was misbehaving so he pulled over in the rain at a church and told him to get out, according to police. Fort Benning soldier Starr is said to have lost the child in the rain.

Birdseye then wandered onto the busy Highway 165, where he was struck by a different vehicle. He was taken to Piedmont Columbus Regional, where he was later pronounced dead.

Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor said the boy's mother was not in the vehicle at the time. Starr was taking the 5-year-old to the Fort Mitchell home he shares with his girlfriend just a few miles away from where the child was struck.

"It's just horrific," Taylor told WKRG. "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 the child is devastated, and was not at fault for the accident.

It is not known how long the child was outside in the rain before he was hit by the vehicle. Taylor said officers are obtaining surveillance video from the church parking lot as part of the investigation.

In a statement to WRBL, Ben Garrett, spokesman for Fort Benning, said the military base is cooperating with local law enforcement officials.

Starr, originally from Marengo, Illinois, is assigned to 3rd Squadron, 16th Cavalry Regiment, 316th and 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 as well as one combat deployment to Iraq.

"We are deeply saddened by this tragic event and extend our heartfelt condolences to the family of the deceased," Garrett added.

Alabama Troopers are also investigating the crash. The Russell County Sheriff's Office has been contacted for further comment.

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(File photo) U.S. Soldiers with Delta Company line up to take part in morning team development exercises November 7, 2002 in Fort Benning, Georgia. A Fort Benning soldier has been charged with reckless murder after his girlfriend’s five-year-old boy was run over in Alabama. Barry Williams/Getty