Man pleads guilty to shooting, killing Josh Bailey
The man who shot and killed Joshua Bailey in 2008 pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping during a hearing in mid-December.
Matthew Alan Johnson was sentenced to 16 years and four months to 20 years and five months in prison for the murder to be followed by seven years and eight months to 10 years in prison for the kidnapping for a total of approximately 24 years to 30 years in prison.
Although Johnson, 25, was the man who shot and killed Bailey, testimony during the trial of Brian Minton in April showed Minton and other co-defendants forced Johnson and Bailey to fight each other in Minton’s garage. They then bound Bailey and drove him out to Twisted Oak Court northwest of Carrboro, where they took him out into the woods. Minton then ordered Johnson to shoot and kill Bailey, according to the testimony during the trial.
Six people, including Minton and Matt Johnson, were charged in killing Bailey. Two co-defendants, Jack Johnson (no relation to Matt Johnson) and Ryan Lee, already made plea agreements with the state in exchange for their testimony. They have yet to be sentenced.
Minton was found guilty during the trial, and two others, Brandon Greene and Jacob Maxwell, are scheduled to appear in Orange County Criminal Superior Court in January.
Orange-Chatham District Attorney Jim Woodall said he made the plea agreement to second-degree murder because he believed a jury would not find Matt Johnson guilty of first-degree murder if the case had gone to trial.
Woodall said he consulted with Bailey’s parents about the plea agreement, as well as talked to court observers and jurors from Minton’s trial about their feelings about Matt Johnson based on the testimony they heard during Minton’s trial.
“It’s an unusual case when the shooter does not appear to be the most culpable person,” Woodall said. “It appears there were several people more culpable than him.”
During Minton’s trial, Jack Johnson, Ryan Lee and others testified that the group suspected that Matt Johnson was snitching to police about their criminal activities and stealing from them, but when they confronted Matt Johnson, he shifted the blame to Bailey.
Minton then had Bailey brought to his home, where the group, including two young women, questioned him about snitching and stealing things. Minton then came up with the idea of having Bailey and Matt Johnson fight, with the loser being the person who would be would be taken on “a long ride to the country.”
The group made Matt Johnson and Josh Bailey fight, although some of the testimony showed that it wasn’t much of a fight, but afterwards Matt Johnson began trying to talk his way out of it by coming up with ideas about how he could help Minton buy large quantities of drugs.
The group then somehow decided Bailey had to die, and they wrapped his hands and mouth with duct tape. The young women left at that point, along with another friend, Gary Bright. The rest of the group put Bailey in Minton’s mother’s SUV, and with Minton at the wheel drove him out to the country where Jacob Maxwell lived northwest of Carrboro.
Carrying guns and shovels, they walked him into the woods and told him to stand in a depression left where a tree had been uprooted. Minton then ordered Matt Johnson to shoot Bailey, and standing just a few feet away, he raised the gun and shot Bailey, according to the testimony.
A few days later, after getting advice from Minton’s parents and receiving assistance from them, some of the group went back to the woods, dug up Bailey’s rotting corpse, wrapped it in plastic, and drove it out to the Lake Jordan area, where they reburied him.
Minton’s parents still face charges of being accessories after the fact to murder.
In August after the murder, Minton, Jack Johnson, Jacob Maxwell and Sarah Krombach, who had dated Matt Johnson and who hung around with the group, allegedly drove Matt Johnson down to a commercial garage owned by Krombach’s relative in Pittsboro, where they beat him and threatened to kill him.
They then took him back to Krombach’s house, where they held him in an attic playroom overnight. The next day, Matt Johnson escaped, and went into hiding because he was afraid they would kill him, too, according to the testimony during Minton’s trial.
Although Krombach appeared to be involved in helping to set up Matt Johnson and Bailey, she was not charged with Bailey’s death, but she still faces charges in Chatham County for the alleged beating and kidnapping of Matt Johnson.
Woodall said he expects those charges to be resolved in the next several months.
Minton was sentenced to life in prison plus approximately 30 years for kidnapping and killing Bailey.
Jack Johnson and Lee have entered into plea agreements with the state in exchange for their testimony during Minton’s trial, but have not yet been sentenced. They remain in custody in the Orange County Jail.