A soldier who forced his longtime girlfriend's 5-year-old son out of his car on a busy highway at night, apparently for being "unruly," has been charged with reckless murder after the boy was struck and killed, police say. Army Sgt. Bryan Starr—who is stationed at Georgia's Fort Benning but lives just over the state line in southeast Alabama—was traveling with Austin Birdseye on Alabama 165 around 8pm Sunday when he stopped his vehicle in a parking lot about two miles from the family's home and made the boy get out in the rain, reports AL.com. The 35-year-old later told investigators that he lost sight of Austin before seeing people gathered in the road. An oncoming car had struck the 5-year-old, who was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. His mother, 33-year-old Christina Birdseye, was not present at the time.
The driver was not at fault. "There's no indication that they had any chance of not hitting the little guy," who was difficult to make out in the rain and darkness, Sheriff Heath Taylor tells the Ledger-Enquirer. Starr surrendered to authorities after a charge of reckless murder was filed. Per the Ledger-Enquirer, a person can be charged with murder in Alabama if "under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life, he or she recklessly engages in conduct which creates a grave risk of death" to another person. A GoFundMe page set up to raise money for the family initially noted Austin would sing songs "at the top of his lungs while in the car," per Metro, though that line has since been deleted. Taylor questioned how one could "tell a 5-year-old to get out of the car on a rainy night, because they were being loud." "It's just heartbreaking," he said. (Read more murder stories.)