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DA explains reckless murder charge in the death of 5-year-old Russell Co. boy

Updated: Dec. 4, 2020 at 7:00 PM EST
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FORT MITCHELL, Ala. (WTVM) - A tragedy in East Alabama has left many speechless this week after a five-year- old died from being hit by a car.

Now, the district attorney is explaining what’s next for the person facing a murder charge.

Bryan Starr is facing a reckless murder charge after allegedly putting Austin Birdseye out of his car on a dark, rainy night.

A small memorial with toy trucks and stuffed animals now sits alongside Highway 165 in Fort Mitchell where Birdseye was struck by a car last Sunday, later dying at the hospital. Now, Starr, the child’s mother’s boyfriend, is facing a reckless murder charge for his actions leading up to Austin’s death.

“It’s sometimes called in case law having a depraved heart. It means you committed an act so reckless that it endangers anyone, not just one specific person but anyone,” said Russell County District Attorney Kenneth Davis.

According to the arrest warrant obtained by News Leader 9, it reads Starr “did under circumstances manifest extreme indifference to human life, recklessly engage in conduct which created a grave risk of death to a person other than himself, by placing Austin Birdseye, age 5, on the side of Highway 165, in the dark and in the rain, which thereby caused the child to be struck by another vehicle which caused the death of Austin.”

Starr, a Fort Benning soldier, reportedly told law enforcement he put the boy outside of the car for being “unruly,” later losing sight of the child. He was arrested earlier this week.

“He’s out on bond. He made a $60,000 bond,” Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor said.

District Attorney Kenneth Davis said a reckless murder charge is not a death penalty case.

“It’s 10 years in prison to life, a class A felony,” he said.

What’s next for the case is a preliminary hearing scheduled sometime in the month of December. Then, the case heads to grand jury for indictment.

“Any murder in our jurisdiction and in Alabama takes two to three years to get to trial,” Davis said.

The date for that preliminary hearing is not scheduled yet. Davis said it should be within the next few weeks.

Today, we learned that Austin did leave behind a twin brother, and it bears repeating that Austin’s mother was not in the vehicle at the time of the incident.

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