Published: May 01, 2012 08:40 PM
Modified: May 02, 2012 12:17 AM
HILLSBOROUGH - A State Bureau of Investigation expert said Tuesday that gloves and zip ties from Josh Bailey’s grave were consistent with those found in a murder defendant’s car and at his Carrboro home.
However, Special Agent Adam Tanner, a forensic firearms identification expert, told a jury in Orange County Superior Court that tests involving a 9mm semi-automatic handgun were inconclusive.
Prosecutors and witnesses say Brian Minton, 21, owned the suspected murder weapon and gave it to the alleged gunman, Matt Johnson, when he forced him to kill Bailey.
Minton is one of six men charged with first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping and conspiracy to commit murder and kidnapping. Two men pleaded guilty to lesser charges and testified against Minton last week.
Prosecutors allege Minton was the ringleader in the July 29, 2008, murder and in Johnson’s subsequent kidnapping and assault.
Tanner said the Bryco 59 9mm Luger jammed five out of eight times in his first test, and the shell casings had to be manually ejected each time. That most likely was caused by a broken firing pin that was replaced by a much shorter piece, he said. The replacement looked like a filed-down sheet metal screw set in the pin and was too short to properly eject the casings, he said.
The gun also was missing its safety mechanism and cocking indicator, he testified.
Tanner conducted a second test after replacing the firing pin, and the gun discharged eight times correctly, he said.
One bullet fired in the first test was compared with a state database of casings from other crimes; the others were examined for microscopic characteristics that matched the 9mm casing witness Sarah Krombach gave to her lawyer.
Tanner said he looked for characteristics unique to the gun’s make and model, and he also looked for individual characteristics that could be caused by random irregularities and imperfections from the manufacturing process.
The casings were similar in some ways, but “my conclusion was it could not be determined in either case,” Tanner said.Possible connections
SBI evidence analyst Jonathan Macey offered the first science-based possible connections between the evidence and Minton when he testified about gloves, zip ties and duct tape investigators collected.
Macey examined more than two dozen gloves, looking for those that were similar in color, appearance, size and materials, he said. Some had been stretched, preventing good measurements, he said. One – recovered from Minton’s Honda – was consistent with gloves from a bag buried with Bailey’s body, he said.
Macey also testified that two cable ties used to bind Bailey’s wrists were consistent with a package of longer, wider cable ties seized from Minton’s garage. Two loose cable ties found in the garage were not a match, he said.
After washing and analyzing the ties recovered from Bailey’s body, Macey said he found they had the same chemical composition and were made from the same nylon material as the packaged ties.
The only difference was in the color and length, he said. The set taken from the body was more yellow – attributable to environmental conditions, he said. Those ties also were 29.4 cm long compared to 29.3 cm for the packaged ties. That difference could be the result of the cables being pulled tight, he testified.
Duct tape removed from a bag of dirt found at the Twisted Oak Drive murder site also matched a roll of duct tape found in Jacob Maxwell’s car, he testified. No other duct tape that was collected matched the tape from Bailey’s grave or the murder site, he said.
The trial continues at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.