Witness: Defendant ordered Chapel Hill man's death
Posted April 13, 2012 1:18 p.m. EDT
Updated April 13, 2012 5:44 p.m. EDT
Hillsborough, N.C. — An Orange County man ordered the execution-style shooting of a Chapel Hill man in 2008, believing the man was a thief and a police informant, a witness testified Friday.
Jack Johnson II testified that Brian Gregory Minton, 22, called the shots in the death of Joshua McCabe Bailey, 20. Minton is one of four men charged with first-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping in the crime.
Johnson, who was also charged in Bailey’s death, pleaded guilty to lesser charges and was the first witness called at Minton’s trial.
Authorities found Bailey's body 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 in Orange County.
Johnson testified he and several friends would gather almost daily at a detached garage at Minton's house to drink, smoke marijuana and play video games. They would sometimes burglarize homes and sell the stolen items to pay for drugs, he said.
In the summer of 2008, some members of the group noticed rifles, electronics, drugs and cash missing, and they accused Matt Johnson, another member of the group who isn't related to Jack Johnson, of stealing from them and telling police about their criminal activities, Jack Johnson said.
They interrogated Matt Johnson, who quickly blamed Bailey for everything, but Bailey repeatedly denied being a thief or an informant as group members took turns beating him up, Jack Johnson said.
Minton then suggested that Bailey and Matt Johnson fight, with the loser taking "a long ride to the country," the witness testified. Bailey, who prosecutors said suffered from a cognitive impairment, quickly gave up in the fight.
"He was really quiet. He was saying, 'I wasn’t really involved with this. That’s not true,' but he didn’t plead his case too much," Jack Johnson said.
Minton suggested that the group duct-tape Bailey's hands, and the group then piled into cars and drove into some woods in Orange County, said Jack Johnson, adding that he went along out of a sense of loyalty to Minton and because he was intimidated by him.
"He said, basically, we were going to take Josh back out in the woods and shoot him. 'Matt will shoot him, and if Matt doesn’t shoot him, we are going to mess him up,'” Jack Johnson said.
Once in the woods, the group forced Bailey to stand in a depression left by an uprooted tree – the hard, dry ground had stymied their efforts to dig a shallow grave – and Minton ordered Matt Johnson to kill Bailey, Jack Johnson said.
He recalled the look of terror on Bailey's face and how he begged for his life, saying, "Guys, I didn't do it."
Matt Johnson shot Bailey in the back of the head and then fired a second shot after Bailey had crumpled to the ground, Jack Johnson said.
Minton then ordered everyone to throw dirt on top of Bailey's body and remove any evidence of the killing before the group left, the witness said.
Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall asked Jack Johnson why he participated in the crime.
"Fear, stupidity, drugs," he responded. "I was more or less in shock (afterward)."
Minton returned to the site in the woods a few times in the following weeks with his father, Jack Johnson and others, according to testimony.
"I remember saying this never should have happened," Jack Johnson testified, noting that he once saw Bailey's heel sticking out of the ground.
Out of fear someone would discover the decaying body, group members dug up Bailey's remains and wrapped them in a blue tarp and some plastic sheeting so everything could be buried elsewhere, Jack Johnson said.
Defense attorney James Glover told jurors in his opening statement Thursday that Minton was merely part of a group and never the ringleader.
In addition to Minton and Matt Johnson, Brandon Hamilton Greene, 30, and Jacob Alexander Maxwell, 22, face murder and kidnapping charges in the case.
Jack Johnson is awaiting sentencing on charges of second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit kidnapping. Ryan Ladar Davis Lee has pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact of first-degree murder and accessory after the fact of second-degree kidnapping in the case.
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.
Jack Johnson said Gregory Minton helped dispose of Bailey's body in Chatham County, while Mishele Minton bought acid used to cover up traces of the initial burial in Orange County.