Published: Jan 05, 2013 07:00 PM
Modified: Jan 05, 2013 04:54 PM
HILLSBOROUGH - The man who shot and killed 20-year-old Josh Bailey in 2008 was sentenced in mid-December to roughly 24 to 30 years in prison.
Matthew Alan Johnson, 25, is among nine people charged in connection with Bailey’s murder in woods northwest of Carrboro. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping in Orange County Superior Court and was taken Dec. 12 to Raleigh’s Central Prison.
Johnson will serve between 16 years and four months and 20 years and five months for the second-degree murder charge. He also will serve a consecutive sentence of seven years and eight months to 10 years for the first-degree kidnapping charge.
Five other men also were charged in Bailey’s death. A jury found 23-year-old Brian Minton, of Carrboro, guilty in May of first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping and first-degree conspiracy to commit murder and kidnapping. He was sentenced to life in prison, plus nearly 35 years.
Two defendants, Ryan Lee and Jack Johnson II, agreed to testify against their co-defendants in return for prosecution on lesser charges. They are in the Orange County Jail waiting to be sentenced. Two others, Jacob Maxwell and Brandon Greene, also are in jail awaiting trial on their murder and kidnapping charges.
Minton’s parents, Greg and Mishele Minton, and a family friend, Chris Manley, are charged with being accessories after the fact to murder. Witnesses said they tried to destroy evidence and helped the group move Bailey’s decomposing body to a Chatham County grave.
Five defendants are scheduled to appear in court again Tuesday. Orange-Chatham District Attorney Jim Woodall said the cases could be resolved within months.
Multiple witnesses testified in May that Minton was the group’s leader.
According to trial testimony, the group confronted Johnson and Bailey on July 29, 2008, at the Minton garage on Smith Level Road in Carrboro. The group accused Johnson of stealing and snitching to police about their illegal activities, and he tried to put the blame on Bailey, witnesses said. Johnson and Bailey were forced to fight to prove who was telling the truth, and when Bailey lost, he was bound and forced into Minton’s mother’s SUV.
Minton then drove the group to Twisted Oak Drive, where, carrying shovels and guns, they walked Bailey into the woods. Bailey was forced to stand in a depression at the base of a fallen tree, while Minton gave Johnson a gun and ordered him to kill Bailey, witnesses said.
Evidence shows Bailey was shot twice at close range.
In August 2008, Minton and four others also are accused of kidnapping Johnson and violently beating him at a Pittsboro body shop when they thought he might go to police. Minton, Greene, Jack Johnson, Kionne McLaughlin and Sarah Krombach were charged with first-degree kidnapping.
Woodall said Wednesday it would have been difficult to convince a jury Johnson was guilty of first-degree murder. He was a kidnapping victim before he became a culprit, and at least one police officer testified Johnson seemed extremely scared after escaping his alleged kidnappers.
Woodall consulted court observers, Bailey’s family and others before offering him a plea deal. They agreed Johnson was in a difficult position, and under the circumstances, it was “a fair and reasonable” plea, he said.
“There was pretty clear evidence that (Johnson) was forced to participate,” Woodall said. However, “that doesn’t absolve him of responsibility and culpability.”