Ex-St. Marys soldier sentenced to 20 years in murder plot against serviceman who turned him in for using marijuana

Co-conspirator serving life sentence in stabbing death of 21-year-old U.S. Army specialist

A 23-year-old ex-soldier from St. Marys was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to his role in a plot that led to the stabbing death of a fellow solider in his Fort Stewart barracks.

Jordan Brown pleaded guilty to assault on a U.S. servicemember involving bodily injury or a deadly weapon and retaliation against a witness involving bodily injury.

U.S. District Court Judge R. Stan Baker also ordered Brown to serve three years of supervised release upon completion of his prison term.

There is no parole in the federal system.

The body of Specialist Austin J. Hawk, 21, was found in his Fort Stewart barracks room in June 2020.

Hawk had 40 stab or slash wounds, according to a medical examiner.

Byron Booker, 29, of Ludowici, Georgia, was sentenced Feb. 2 to life in prison after pleading guilty to premeditated murder of a member of the United States Uniformed Services.

“Both of these defendants are responsible for the brutal murder of a U.S. Army soldier who honorably performed his duties as a service member,” said U.S. Attorney Jill Steinberg. “The final sentence in this case hopefully provides justice for Specialist Austin Hawk, and holds his killers accountable.”

Booker, a former U.S. Army sergeant, admitted that he and Brown, who was a U.S. Army specialist at the time of Hawk’s death, discussed “silencing” Hawk at Fort Stewart Military Reservation, in retaliation for Hawk reporting Brown to U.S. Army leadership for marijuana use.

Hawk’s report and a similar one by another soldier led to Brown’s “involuntary separation” from the Army after a positive drug test.

The plea agreement said that Brown was “angry at Hawk, as he believed Hawk had cost him his position in the Army, his paycheck, his housing, and possibly his relationship with his father.”

Brown and Booker had a plan for Brown to swipe a master key and slip it to Booker so Booker could get into Hawk’s room and “send a message about snitching.” But Brown wasn’t able to get the master key and the plan fell apart.

But the next day, Brown’s girlfriend broke up with him after learning of his involuntary separation from the Army. When he talked to Booker about the break-up, Brown said “Hawk had ruined his life and taken everything from him, including his girlfriend.”

According to the plea agreement, days later, Booker got into Hawk’s barracks room shortly after midnight on June 17, 2020, and “slashed and stabbed Hawk repeatedly with a sharp-edged weapon.”

Brown, who was in the barracks room directly below Hawk’s room, heard the violent attack but told investigators “he simply thought Hawk was exercising or moving furniture.”

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

“This sentence holds Brown accountable for his actions and brings 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.”

About the Author:

A Jacksonville native and proud University of North Florida alum, Francine Frazier has been with News4Jax since 2014 after spending nine years at The Florida Times-Union.