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Prosecutors: Man on trial was ringleader in Chapel Hill man's slaying

Testimony began Thursday in the trial of the accused ringleader of a group that executed a Chapel Hill man nearly four years ago.

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HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. — Testimony began Thursday in the trial of the accused ringleader of a group that executed a Chapel Hill man nearly four years ago.

Brian Gregory Minton, 22, was one of six men charged with first-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping in the death of Joshua McCabe Bailey.

Authorities found the body of Bailey, 20, on Sept. 12, 2008, near Jordan Lake, three weeks after his family reported him missing. Investigators have said they believe he was killed more than six weeks earlier and buried in Orange County and that the body was later dug up and moved to Chatham County.

Minton didn't shoot Bailey in the back of the head, Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall told jurors in his opening statement, but he headed the group that duct-taped Bailey's hands and drove him to the execution site.

Prosecutors allege that the group often gathered at Minton's home to drink and take drugs and would sometimes commit crimes to support their drug habits.

Members of the group questioned the loyalty of Bailey and another man, Matt Johnson, saying one of them had been talking to police about the group, Woodall said. The group pitted the pair against each other in a fight, he said, and after Bailey gave up in the fight, the group drove him to a wooded area in Orange County, where Johnson was forced to kill him.

"The evidence will be clear that the defendant was the one making most of the decisions that put this in process and making sure it got carried out," Woodall said.

Defense attorney James Glover called the case the most complex he's ever encountered and said Minton were merely part of a group and was never the ringleader.

"This is not a monolithic group that is moving in lock step, with Brian Minton telling everybody what to do and making all of the decisions," Glover told jurors in his opening statement.

In addition to Minton and Johnson, Brandon Hamilton Greene, 30, and Jacob Alexander Maxwell, 22, face murder and kidnapping charges in the case.

Jack Johnson II pleaded guilty in September 2010 to second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit kidnapping. Ryan Ladar Davis Lee pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact of first-degree murder and accessory after the fact of second-degree kidnapping.

Jack Johnson was the prosecution's first witness, but he only began to describe his relationship with Baily, Minton and the others when court recessed for the day. His testimony is expected to continue Friday morning.

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