HILLSBOROUGH - A witness said Thursday she had only known Brian Minton and his friends and acquaintances a few days when her then-boyfriend Matt Johnson fatally shot Josh Bailey in July 2008.
Sarah Krombach, 26, said she didn’t find out about the Carrboro murder until Aug. 17, 2008 – the same day she is accused of helping to kidnap Johnson, who was assaulted in her uncle’s Pittsboro Body Shop. Krombach is charged with first-degree kidnapping in that case.
Minton is being tried in Orange County Superior Court for his role in Bailey’s murder. He also is charged with first-degree kidnapping in Chatham County. If convicted in Bailey’s murder, Minton could be sentenced to life in prison.
He is one of nine people charged in connection with the murder and five people charged in the Chatham County case.
The prosecution claims Minton was the group’s “ringleader” when Bailey was shot July 29, 2008. Minton, Matt Johnson, Jack Johnson, Ryan Lee, Brandon Green and Jacob Maxwell were charged with first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and kidnapping. Jack Johnson and Lee have since pleaded guilty to lesser charges and testified against Minton.Robbing people
Krombach said people drank and smoked marijuana at Minton’s house on Smith Level Road; she would have a beer or two but never got “wasted,” she said. They joked about robbing people, but she didn’t take it seriously, she said.
Krombach said Matt Johnson disappeared for about six weeks in early June. In mid-July, he showed up asking for help to “get clean,” she said. He wanted to go to a Virginia rehab center, but it cost $50,000, so he decided to buy and sell marijuana to make money, she said. He wanted to team up with Minton, she said.
About that time, she noticed guns, cash and checks were missing, she said. Minton said his mother’s prescription medicines and jewelry also were missing, and they realized Matt Johnson was the “common denominator,” she said.
When they confronted him July 29 in the Minton garage, Matt Johnson implicated Bailey, she said. He also admitted to being a “narc” as a way to get off easier on a break-in charge, she said. Matt Johnson, Minton and Maxwell suggested they confront Bailey, she said.
She was there when Garry Bright and Jack Johnson assaulted Bailey, and when he and Matt Johnson fought, but she left with Bright and Chelsea Lipson before Bailey was bound, she said.
A few days later, Matt Johnson told her they took Bailey to the country and scared him before telling him to get out of town, she said.
Bright also testified Thursday that he knew the 9mm pistol used to killed Bailey, and a 38-caliber revolver and AK-47 rifle were Minton’s weapons. Minton gave Maxwell money to buy the 9mm, he said.
Bright also testified again that he feared the group would turn against him if he didn’t go along. Minton had indicated at one point that he would “deal with me” if it became necessary, he said.
“I was pretty scared of them in general,” Bright said. “I was more scared of Brian, because it seemed like he had no regards for human life.”
Judge Orlando Hudson allowed testimony Thursday about the incident that led Bright to think Minton would harm him – a 2007 conviction for felony possession of a weapon of mass destruction.
It started when Minton fired a sawed-off Mossberg shotgun he got from his father’s BP station at a tree at the yard of his former home off Culbreth Road. When the police responded, Bright said he stayed outside to delay them while Minton hid the gun. They handcuffed Bright, and he eventually told them where to find the weapon, he said.
Minton was convicted and served roughly 10 months in prison in 2009. A few months before Bailey’s murder, he and Minton were sitting on a porch together when Minton pulled the loaded 38-caliber revolver and pointed it at him, saying he would take care of him if he had to, Bright said. He was intimidated and scared of Minton, and thought something bad might happen if he didn’t go along, he said.
That’s the reason he left the garage the night Bailey was killed and why he didn’t help move the body, he said. It’s also why he refused to go to the Pittsboro Body Shop to deal with Matt Johnson, he said.
Defense attorney James Glover later asked Bright why he continued to hang out with Minton after the incident on the porch. Minton’s lawyer could have told him that Bright snitched to police about the gun during his 2007 trial, Glover said.
Bright said he felt threatened, and earlier had testified, “I was afraid he was going to take my life.”