LUMPKIN COUNTY, Ga. - The Dahlonega community is mourning the loss of a 21-year-old woman as the search for her killer intensifies across state lines.
Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Deputies discovered a body in a shallow grave in Forsyth County early Wednesday morning. They believe it to be the remains of missing woman, Hannah Bender.
When family and friends heard the news, they held a vigil in Dahlonega honoring Bender’s life.
Dozens came to support the family, including people who had never met Bender showed up to grieve for the young woman they described as a “beautiful soul.”
“When I heard the news of this tragedy, my heart broke,” said Bender’s friend Jacob Smeltzer.
“She was radiant,” said Bender’s childhood friend Seth Chambers. “You could be having the worst day and she’d have you come over and she’d just put a smile on your face.”
Lumpkin County Sheriff's Deputies are searching crime scenes across Dawson, Forsyth and Lumpkin counties to figure out exactly how Bender was killed and who took her life.
“Really I don’t think he knows what he took away from this world,” said Chambers.
Deputies are searching for Austin Stryker in connection with Hannah's murder. They believe he is with a 78-year-old named Jerry Harper who is wanted as a person of interest. Family and friends hope the search will come to an end soon.
Bender's father shared his hurt during the vigil--the pain of not seeing his daughter one more time.
“I didn’t get very many chances to tell her I was proud of her,” said Gary Bender. “But I look around at all these people here, and she touched every one of you.”