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Soldier faces murder charge after reportedly forcing 'unruly' 5-year-old boy out of car near highway, where he was struck by traffic



Photo by Larry W. Smith/Getty Images

A 35-year-old active-duty Army sergeant at Fort Benning, Georgia, faces murder charges in the death of his girlfriend's 5-year-old son.

What are the details?

Authorities said that as Bryan Starr drove down a dark and rainy Alabama highway, he pulled over and forced 5-year-old Austin Birdseye — who was described as being "unruly" in the vehicle — to get out of the car.

Shortly after Starr reportedly made Austin leave the car, the child was fatally struck by a passing vehicle. He died Sunday at a local hospital.

Starr told deputies that the child was misbehaving in the car, which prompted him to pull into a parking lot off the highway and demand that the child get out of the vehicle. The child obliged, but Starr said he lost track of the child completely until he saw other cars stopped along the highway and suspected the worst. During that time, the child apparently wandered into the highway and was struck by the passing vehicle.

Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor said that an accident at that point was unavoidable.

"There's no indication that [the driver who struck Austin] had any chance of not hitting the little guy," Taylor told reporters.

Taylor marveled at Starr's treatment of the child.

"What do you say to that? What is your thought process when you tell a 5-year-old child to get out of the car on a rainy night because they were being loud in the car?" he added.

The state police are working with the local sheriff's office to conduct an investigation into the child's death.

The New York Post reported that Austin was struck just two miles from the home he shared with Starr and his mother, Christina Birdseye. Birdseye was not in the vehicle at the time of the incident.

According to Newsweek, Starr faces a reckless murder charge in connection with the incident.

What else?

In a statement obtained by WTVM-TV, a spokesperson for Fort Benning said that it is cooperating with the investigation.

"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," a portion of the statement read. "We are deeply saddened by this tragic event and extend our heartfelt condolences to the family of the deceased."

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