SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — A former U.S. Army sergeant has admitted he fatally stabbed a former fellow soldier whose body was found in a Fort Stewart barracks room in June 2020.

According to U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia, David H. Estes, Byron Booker, 29, of Ludowici, plead guilty to premeditated murder of a member of the United States Uniformed Services.

Booker faces a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison.

“Byron Booker murdered a former fellow soldier in cold blood in retaliation for that soldier performing his duties as a service member,” said U.S. Attorney Estes, himself a retired U.S. Army Colonel. “The FBI and the Department of the Army Criminal Investigative Division did outstanding work in solving this despicable crime and bringing Booker to justice.”

Booker, a former U.S. Army sergeant, admitted he and his co-defendant, 21-year-old Jordan Brown, of St. Marys, previously 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. As described in the plea agreement, 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 later noted that Hawk received 40 separate stab or slash wounds.

Hawk’s body was found in his Fort Stewart barracks room the next day.

Brown continues to await further proceedings.

“The collective response by the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice to this murder exemplifies the phenomenal teamwork between the Department of the Army Criminal Investigation Division, FBI, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Georgia,” said Rusty Higgason, Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge of the CID Southeast Field Office. “From the CID forensic science technicians who responded from multiple locations to process the scene, to the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory and the FBI Crime Lab, who processed hundreds of pieces of evidence, the entire team did an outstanding job.”    

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.