The state and defense presented vastly different pictures of Josh Bailey’s slaying Thursday during the opening statements in the trial of a man accused of killing him.
Brian Gregory Minton, 23, is charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping for 20-year-old Bailey’s July 2008 death. He is the first to go to trial of nine originally charged.
The state contended that Minton did not shoot the gun, but led a group of people to kill Bailey.
But the defense explained the situation differently — saying the group that shot the Chapel Hill man had fluid membership and no leader.
Defense attorney James Glover also said Matt Johnson, another member of the group, not Minton, shot the gun that killed Bailey.
Orange-Chatham District Attorney Jim Woodall said the events leading up to Bailey’s killing began when the group started suspecting that Johnson was talking to police about their illegal activities, which included committing burglaries to get property they wanted and money for drugs.
Members of the group confronted Johnson in Minton’s garage, he said.
Johnson said he was innocent and Bailey was the snitch, Woodall said.
He said the group summoned Bailey to the garage, where Bailey and Johnson fought.
“The way to determine who was telling the truth was for them to fight,” he said.
Woodall said Bailey did little to defend himself and lost.
“He had very serious cognitive issues,” he said. “(His parents) used to stick notes in the bathroom to make sure he did what he needed in the morning.”
Woodall said Minton was in control of the situation the entire time.
“He was making most of the decisions,” he said.
Woodall also said that Minton owned a 9 mm handgun, an AK-47 rifle and a 38 mm revolver that were bandied about in the garage.
When Bailey lost the fight, he was bound, put in the back of Minton’s mother’s SUV and driven to a wooded area off of Twisted Oak Drive, where Bailey was forced into the depression made by an uprooted tree and shot, Woodall said.
Minton instructed Matt Johnson to shoot Bailey with the 9 mm, Woodall said.
Group members threw dirt over the shallow grave, but later, wearing painter’s suits and latex gloves, moved the body to Chatham County, he said.
Woodall said Minton’s mother went with members of the group to buy acid. Members then reburied Bailey, he said.
But Bailey’s body was discovered Sept. 12, 2008, Woodall said. His parents had last seen him July 21, 2008.
He said most of the group members frequented Minton’s garage.
“Part of this hanging out was drinking and using drugs,” Woodall said. “That’s a big part of what it was.”
Group members were also connected through Alcoholics Anonymous and other treatment groups and spent time at Caribou Coffee on Franklin Street.
But Glover presented a different perspective.
“What you will hear will make no sense. There is no rational reason why Josh Bailey is dead,” Glover said. “There is no reason why he’s dead other than the fact that Matt Johnson killed him.”
Glover said Johnson was a thief who stole from other group members and broke into his mother’s house.
He also said people in the group were constantly falling in and out of friendship and acting independently.
“This is not a monolithic group moving in lockstep,” Glover said. “This is real life. These were a bunch of kids.”
He said the group was leaderless and it wasn’t clear who owned the guns.
He also said the jury will hear conflicting testimonies about the events, and should pay attention to that fact.
Jack Johnson II was the first witness called to the stand, but he only testified briefly about his friendship with Minton before court recessed.
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