LAKEWOOD, Wash. -- Ramona Tener re-lights the candles left at a memorial in honor of a man she considered a brother.
“This is my brother’s site. It’s sacred to me now,” she said.
Tener’s new mission is to find justice for a murder she believes was a hate crime.
“They drove by and said something like ‘cracker.’ It was about him being white. He should be charged with the hate crime,” said Tener.
The fatal stabbing happened early Saturday morning in Lakewood along Pacific Avenue; Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier Tevin Geike was killed. Police originally thought the crime was racially motivated, but prosecutors are backing off that theory.
In the 911 tapes we hear a description of the suspects. But we don't hear a motive.
“Who stabbed him,” the dispatcher asks.
“I don’t know, four black dudes in a black car,” replies the caller.
Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist admits that initial reports indicated one of the suspects said something racial at the beginning of the exchange. But after the murder, none of the witnesses could remember exactly what was said or by whom.
“In order to prove malicious harassment, the prosecutor has to show that the defendant intentionally committed the crime because of the victim’s race,” said Lindquist.
So if the death of Army Specialist Tevin Geike wasn't about race, what was the motive?
“People commit stupid, sad, senseless crimes and as far as we can tell, this is one of them,” said Lindquist.
Hate crime or not, Ramona Tener just hopes Jeremiah Hill, the man accused of stabbing Geike, gets what he deserves.
“He murdered and innocent man and a soldier - his fellow brother,” said Tener.
If prosecutors had pursued the malicious harassment charge, our state’s equivalent of a hate crime, it would’ve only added three to nine months to a sentence. Instead, in this case, two of the men are charged with rendering criminal assistance.
Jeremiah Hill is charged with first degree murder and could face 25 years to life in prison.