Men plead guilty in 2008 slaying of Chapel Hill man
Posted September 22, 2010 11:52 a.m. EDT
Updated September 22, 2010 6:37 p.m. EDT
Hillsborough, N.C. — Two of six men charged in the execution-style slaying of a Chapel Hill man two years ago pleaded guilty Wednesday to their roles in the crime.
Jack Johnson II, 21, of 101 Culbreth Drive in Chapel Hill, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit kidnapping. Ryan Ladar Davis Lee, 22, of 1103 Sourwood Drive in Chapel Hill, pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact of first-degree murder and accessory after the fact of second-degree kidnapping.
Authorities found the body of Joshua McCabe Bailey, 20, on Sept. 12, 2008, near Jordan Lake in Chatham County, 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.
Johnson, Lee and four other Chapel Hill men – Brandon Hamilton Greene, 28, Brian Gregory Minton, 20, Jacob Alexander Maxwell, 20, and Matt Johnson – were charged with first-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping in the case.
Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said 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.
"They pitted the two against each other in the garage," Woodall said. "They made them fight, and then, somehow, during that process, it was determined that Josh Bailey was the person who was not being loyal."
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.
There was evidence that another shot was fired at Bailey after that, he said, but an autopsy wasn't able to confirm that because of the decomposed state of the body when it was found.
Woodall said Lee didn't know the group well – another co-defendant was dating his aunt. He said Lee took Bailey to Minton's home the night of the slaying but didn't participate in the murder.
Lee told investigators that he simply gave people rides during the incident because he had a car, and he had no idea what was happening, according to Woodall. Lee also told investigators that he was afraid of the group, so he followed them into the woods where Bailey was killed to avoid any sort of retribution, Woodall said.
Both Johnson and Lee agreed to testify against their co-defendants as part of their plea deals.
Jack Johnson will be sentenced later, and prosecutors didn't recommend a sentence for him in the plea deal.
Lee was sentenced to 12 to 15 months in prison on the kidnapping accessory charge, but Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour delayed sentencing on the murder accessory charge.
Three other people – Gregory Lee Minton, 43, Mishele Slade Minton, 39, and Chris Manley, 25 – 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.
Bailey's family declined to comment Wednesday after attending the plea hearings in court.