HILLSBOROUGH — The first day of witness testimony about the 2008 shooting death of a Chapel Hill man started Friday morning in Orange County Superior Court.
Jack Johnson II took the stand to testify that defendant Brian Minton, of Chapel Hill, directed the crime, from deciding to interrogate alleged shooter Matt Johnson and the victim, 20-year-old Josh Bailey, to providing the gun and deciding who would kill Bailey.
Minton, 23, is charged with first-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping and could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted. Jack Johnson pleaded guilty to lesser charges of second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit kidnapping in September 2010 in return for his testimony.
District Attorney Jim Woodall presented the 9 mm pistol with which Matt Johnson shot Bailey and a 38-caliber revolver that Jack Johnson testified Minton gave to another man at the scene. He also presented photographs showing Bailey before and after his death and the various vehicles and locations being described.
Jack Johnson said he, Minton and the others accused of murder Matt Johnson of Wilmington, and Ryan Lee, Jacob Maxwell and Brandon Green, all of Chapel Hill partied together. He also said he committed some crimes with them a Chapel Hill break-in with Minton and Maxwell and a Greensboro home invasion with Minton, Maxwell, Matt Johnson and two others.
Minton owned the guns used in the home invasion and Baileys death and gave them to people to use, he said.
On July 29, the six men were hanging out at the Chapel Hill home of Gary Bright Greens mothers fiancé where Jack Johnson, Bailey and others sometimes stayed. He and Bailey had become friends in 2007, he said.
They went to Mintons garage, and Sarah Krombach, who was involved with Matt Johnson, arrived to talk about stolen money and goods, he said. They decided Matt Johnson might be the thief and a snitch and decided to confront him, he said.
Jack Johnson and Minton brought Matt Johnson to the garage, where he was beaten and interrogated, he said. Minton handed Green the 38-caliber revolver, which he used to intimidate Matt Johnson, he said. Matt Johnson then claimed Bailey was the culprit, he said.
Minton suggested having Lee bring Bailey to the garage, where he also was beaten and questioned, he said. He denied knowing anything, but later said it was Matt Johnson, Jack Johnson said. Minton pulled out the 9mm pistol, threatening to shoot someone, and decided the men should fight to prove their loyalty, he said.
Bailey lost the fight, Jack Johnson said. Minton directed them to duct tape Bailey, and he and others got in Mintons mothers SUV, he said.
Members of Jack Johnsons family and Baileys mother Julie Bailey wept softly as he calmly described how they drove Bailey to Twisted Oak Drive and walked him to a spot in the woods not far from Maxwells fathers house.
They tried to dig a hole, but the ground was hard, he said. They then found a downed tree and made Bailey stand in the depression left by the roots.
Minton gave Matt Johnson the 9 mm and told him to shoot Bailey, but Matt Johnson hesitated, Jack Johnson said.
Yeah, you are, he quoted Minton as telling Matt Johnson. Youve got to do this to prove that youre not a narc.
Jack Johnson said he was a few feet away and heard Baileys last words: Guys, I didnt do it.
Minton told Matt Johnson to shoot him again, and he did, he said. They threw dirt over the body and left.
Woodall asked Jack Johnson why he would go along with the killing of his friend.
Fear, stupidity, drugs. I wasnt under the most sober of minds, he said.
Moving the body
Jack Johnson testified he returned to the site a few times, once with Minton to put dirt on the body and again with Mintons father, Greg Minton, who had heard what happened. Greg Minton said he would take care of it, he said.
A few weeks later, he, Minton and Maxwell dressed in painters suits, shoe covers and latex gloves and dug up Baileys body, wrapping it in plastic and duct tape. They left the body behind and went to Mintons house, where they talked with his parents, Greg and Mishele Minton, and another man, Chris Manley, he said.
Manley suggested cleaning the site with acid, and Mishele Minton took her son, Maxwell and Jack Johnson to the Lowes store in Chapel Hill and gave them money to buy it, Jack Johnson said. The three men returned to Twisted Oak Drive and poured acid on the gravesite, he said. Maxwell suggested getting a U-Haul truck from the Mintons BP station to move the body.
A couple of days later, Jack Johnson, Minton, Maxwell and Manley went to a trail off Big Woods Road in Chatham County. The body and shovels were waiting, and they took turns carrying the body into the woods. They dug a new grave and buried Bailey, he said.
When they finished, Jack Johnson said, May he rest in peace. Manley said, May he rest in hell, and flicked a cigarette, he said.
Later, Jack Johnson said he started hearing rumors Matt Johnson was implicating him in a theft he wasnt involved in.
On Aug. 17, Minton drove him, Maxwell and Keonne McLaughlin to the Pittsboro Body Shop that Krombachs uncle owned. She and Matt Johnson were there, and once inside, they started questioning him about stolen items and snitching, he said. They beat and kick him, Jack Johnson said, and at one point, he wrapped a small chain around Matt Johnsons neck to bring him to his knees.
They duct taped his hands and made him sit on a milk crate, he said. Minton hit his ribs and legs with a piece of metal, he said. Minton had the 38-caliber revolver with him and suggested getting rid of Matt Johnson or breaking his leg, he said.
The others said that wasnt necessary, and Matt Johnson finally said he could get the items from his mothers house in Chapel Hill, he said.
That night, Jack Johnson said Minton gave him the 38-caliber revolver and told him to watch Matt Johnson. Minton took the duct tape off, and the two men spent the night on the third floor of Krombachs house in Chapel Hill, he said. Matt Johnson didnt try to get away, he said.
The next morning, they had breakfast and went to retrieve the items, he said. Matt Johnson finally left when they stopped at an office building in Chapel Hill, where his mother used to work, he said.
The trial will resume at 9:30 a.m. Monday with more testimony from Jack Johnson.