Jerry Kyle Harper (left), Hannah Bender
Photo: Lumpkin County Sheriff's Office
Photo: Lumpkin County Sheriff's Office

78-year-old man accused of hiding Lumpkin County woman’s body arrested

A 78-year-old man wanted in connection with the death of a Lumpkin County woman whose body was discovered in a shallow grave was arrested Friday afternoon in Dawson County, authorities said.

Jerry Kyle Harper was taken into custody after deputies spotted him in his SUV. He was wanted on charges of concealing a dead body and tampering with evidence in the death of 21-year-old Hannah Bender.

Austin Todd Stryker, the man believed to have killed Bender, remains at large, authorities said. 

The GBI obtained warrants for Harper’s arrest Thursday, the agency said in a tweet. That announcement came one day after Bender’s body was discovered in Forsyth County.

The Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Office took out murder warrants against Stryker before Bender’s body was found. On Thursday, U.S. Marshals offered a $5,000 reward for information on the man’s whereabouts.

RELATED: Officials find body of Lumpkin County woman; suspect’s fiancee arrested

Austin Todd Stryker
Photo: Lumpkin County Sheriff's Office

Bender disappeared nearly a week before her body was found Wednesday in a shallow grave off Parks Road near Ga. 306, officials said. A report from a tipster led investigators to the ravine where her body was discovered.

Bender’s mother, Carol Gilreath, said the last time she heard from her daughter was in a text message Sept. 14. She reported her daughter missing five days later, with investigators finding bloody clothing shortly after.

RELATED: Man sought in disappearance of 21-year-old woman in Lumpkin County

Lumpkin Sheriff Stacy Jarrard said there were crime scenes associated with the case in Lumpkin, Dawson and Forsyth counties. He would not say where the clothes were discovered, but believes the murder was committed in his county.

It’s unclear how investigators connected Stryker to the case. His fiancee, 21-year-old Elizabeth Brooke Donaldson, was arrested Tuesday in Dawson County. She faces one count of tampering with evidence, according to jail records.

Anyone with information about the case or Styker’s whereabouts is asked to call 800-597-8477 or 706-864-0414.

In other news:

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.