Opening arguments in Josh Bailey murder trial begin today

CorrespondentApril 11, 2012 

— A jury will hear opening arguments Wednesday in the murder trial of one of nine people charged in the July 2008 slaying of a 20-year-old Chapel Hill man whose body was found in Chatham County.

Josh Bailey was fatally shot in the back of the head and buried in the woods off Twisted Oak Drive, northwest of Carrboro. A medical examiner’s report says a second shot may have broken his rib. His body was later moved to a shallow grave near Jordan Lake.

Brian Gregory Minton, 23, of Chapel Hill, is one of six men charged with first-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping in the case and the first to face a jury trial. Minton’s attorney, James Glover, said they have not decided yet whether he will testify.

Orange-Chatham District Attorney Jim Woodall is not seeking the death penalty. Some of the defendants may accept plea deals instead of going to trial, he says.

Two Chapel Hill men – Jack Johnson II and Ryan Lee – agreed in September 2010 to testify against their co-defendants and accept reduced charges.

Jack Johnson was convicted of second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit kidnapping. He faces up to 30 years in prison and will be sentenced after the other cases are resolved.

Lee pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder and conspiracy to commit kidnapping. He served a 12- to 15-month sentence on the first charge and is being held until sentenced for the second charge. He will receive credit for time served.

Matt Johnson of Wilmington and Brandon Greene and Jacob Maxwell, both of Chapel Hill, also are charged with first-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping. They, Minton, Lee and Jack Johnson are accused of interrogating and beating Bailey, before shooting and burying him.

Minton’s parents, Greg and Mishele Minton of Chapel Hill, and a friend, Chris Manley of Carrboro, were charged with being an accessory after the fact to first-degree murder for allegedly trying to hide evidence. Woodall says Manley has accepted a deal contingent on his testimony.

The shooting occurred after some members of a group selling drugs and involved in break-ins started to suspect that either Bailey or Matt Johnson was snitching to police and stealing the money or goods the group had stolen, Woodall says.

Lee drove Bailey to Minton’s house near Culbreth Middle School on July 29, but Lee didn’t know what was planned, Woodall says. Lee and Jack Johnson told authorities that Minton, Jack Johnson, Maxwell and Greene forced Bailey and Matt Johnson to fight, and that the group decided Bailey was being disloyal. They beat him and bound him with duct tape before driving him in Minton’s mother’s SUV to a wooded area west of Carrboro, Woodall says. After trying to dig a grave, they pulled up the roots of a fallen tree and made Bailey stand in the depression.

Lee, who arrived separately, told authorities he saw Matt Johnson put a gun to Bailey’s head but turned away before hearing the shot, Woodall says.

Bailey’s body was later moved to a new grave off Big Woods Road in Chatham County, investigators say. Minton’s parents allegedly advised their son on how to hide the body and destroy evidence. Mishele Minton also is accused of taking some defendants to buy acid to pour on Bailey’s remains. His body was found in September, three weeks after his family reported him missing.

Three weeks earlier, authorities said, Sarah Krombach, of Chapel Hill, drove Matt Johnson to the Pittsboro Body Shop in Pittsboro, where she worked. There, she, Jack Johnson, Maxwell and Minton bound, kicked and beat him with a metal pipe. The warrant states Minton also threatened him with a handgun. Krombach has been charged with first-degree kidnapping.

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