Local News

DA won't seek death in Chapel Hill man's slaying

Posted February 18, 2009 3:40 p.m. EST
Updated February 18, 2009 7:35 p.m. EST

— Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said Wednesday he won't seek the death penalty against six men charged with killing a Chapel Hill man last summer.

Authorities found the body of Joshua McCabe Bailey, 20, on Sept. 12 near Jordan Lake in Chatham County, three weeks after his family reported him missing. Investigators said they believe he was killed and buried on July 29 in Orange County and that the body was later dug up and moved to Chatham County.

Six men – Brandon Hamilton Greene, 26; Ryan Ladar Davis Lee, 20; Jack Johnson II, 19; Brian Gregory Minton, 18; Jacob Alexander Maxwell, 18, and Matt Johnson – face face first-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping charges in Bailey's death.

Woodall said in court Wednesday that the group had gathered at Minton's home and pitted Bailey and Matt Johnson against each other, saying one of them had been talking to police about the group's drug activities or had cheated the others out of drugs or money.

After the group drove to a wooded area in Orange County, Matt Johnson was forced to shoot Bailey in the back of the head as Bailey stood in the depression left by an uprooted tree, Woodall said.

Although he had enough evidence to pursue a capital case against the men, he said he felt more comfortable trying the case with only a life sentence on the line.

"I think they understood the reasons," Woodall said of Bailey's family. "That does not mean they agree completely with every decision that I made or everything I told them, but I think they understood and accepted the reasoning."

Bailey's parents declined to comment after the court hearing, but they issued a statement saying they support Woodall's decision.

"While we do not have any particular objection to the death penalty, we also do not believe that it is the only path to follow," Steve and Julie Bailey said in the statement. "We are confident that Mr. Woodall has a well-developed plan to bring the ones that murdered our son to justice."

Three other people – Gregory Lee Minton, 41, Mishele Slade Minton, 37, and Chris Manley, 23 – each face a charge of accessory after the fact to first-degree murder. Authorities said they tried to cover up evidence of the crime.

Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour also granted Lee a $1 million bond in the case. If he is able to post the bond, he will be under a 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew and will be prohibited from contacting Bailey's family or any of his co-defendants.

The other five men charged with murder are being held without bond in the Orange County Jail.