Case details emerge in Minton trial
By Rose Laudicina
HILLSBOROUGH – When investigator Tim Horne from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office began looking into the disappearance of Josh Bailey, he was doing it as a favor to a friend.
A friend called to tell him that her friend Steve Bailey’s oldest son was missing and that he was having trouble finding help.
“I went to the Chapel Hill Police Department to file a missing persons report,” Steve Bailey told the jury on April 16. “An officer told me that just because he had not come home for two weeks, and because he was 18 and a legal adult, he could not take a missing persons report,” he said.
After talking to Steve Bailey on Aug. 19, 2008, Horne began looking into the missing persons case, but it quickly transitioned into a homicide and a kidnapping.
Horne, the lead investigator for the case, told the jury in the State vs. Brian Minton trial on Tuesday that after talking with Matt Johnson, who allegedly shot Bailey, he realized his missing person could be a homicide victim.
“Matt went into a lot of detail about several different instances that had occurred,” Horne said about the first time he talked to Johnson at Central Regional Hospital in Butner on Aug. 26, 2008. Johnson had checked into the hospital for rehab.
One of the stories Johnson told was that Josh Bailey had been bound and driven away from the Minton family garage and that he never saw him again.
“Matt said he had been taken away and didn’t come back,” Horne said, “and the defendant, Brian Minton, had made some statements to him to the effect of, ‘If you do to me what Josh did, I will kill you too.’”
Minton has been charged with first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping and conspiracy to commit murder and kidnapping in the death of Josh Bailey, who was murdered on July 29, 2008.
Johnson also told Horne about an incident that occurred after Josh Bailey went missing, in which Johnson had been kidnapped, taken to Pittsboro and beaten by Minton and three others, including Johnson’s girlfriend, Sarah Krombach.
After talking to Johnson, Horne said he decided to bring in the Chapel Hill Police Department, the Pittsboro Police Department and State Bureau of Investigation officers for a briefing on the case.
“We had a missing persons case,” Horne said, “but based on the information we got, we had a possible homicide, and we also had a separate situation where Matt had been kidnapped.”
Earlier in the trial Krombach, who has been charged with kidnapping Johnson, took the stand and talked about what happened in Pittsboro on Aug. 17, 2008, when Johnson was taken to her uncle’s body shop.
She told the jury that Johnson had agreed to go with her to Pittsboro so she could work on a car, but when Minton, Jack Johnson, Jacob Maxwell and Keonne McLaughlin showed up and started questioning him about stolen property, he acted like he didn’t want to be there anymore.
District Attorney Jim Woodall asked Krombach if she thought Matt Johnson was being held against his will, and although she seemed to attempt to deny the kidnapping aspect, eventually she admitted he wasn’t free to leave the garage.
Woodall asked if what happened in Pittsboro was similar to what happened on July 29, 2008, in the Minton’s garage, when Josh Bailey was bound, assaulted and questioned about the same stolen property and was later driven out to the woods and shot.
Krombach simply answered, “Yes.”
Initially, Matt Johnson told Horne he didn’t know what happened to Josh Bailey, but after questioning him again on Sept. 10, 2008, in Wilmington, and giving him a letter Bailey’s mother had written to him, Horne learned Bailey had been murdered.
Horne said that after Matt Johnson read the letter, he started to confess.
“After he read that he made statements like, ‘I didn’t realize Josh was adopted; I was adopted too,’” Horne said. “He hung his head and told us he had actually been there when Josh was shot.”
Matt Johnson agreed to return to Chapel Hill with Horne and two SBI officers to show them where the body had been buried in the woods off Twisted Oak Drive. However, the body was not there, as it had been dug up and moved to a site in Chatham County.
It was at this first burial site, which Horne testified smelled of decomposition, that the first arrest in the case was made.
On Sept. 11, 2008, officers were at the first site when Maxwell drove down past them and turned into his father’s driveway. He was arrested on charges of kidnapping Matt Johnson, but would later be charged with first-degree murder.
From this point, Horne told the jury, the investigation began moving very quickly, and on Sept. 13, the Baileys were told that their son’s body had been found.
The trial continues with the testimony of SBI agents and other investigators.
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