Man pleads guilty in killing of Josh Bailey

Jan. 24, 2013 @ 06:31 PM

The last words that Jacob Alexander Maxwell heard Thursday before leaving an Orange County courtroom were a little girl calling out to him, “Bye Daddy. Bye Daddy.”

Maxwell, 22, had just pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping and conspiracy to commit first-degree kidnapping in the death of 20-year-old Josh Bailey in 2008. As part of a plea agreement, he was sentenced to a 30 years to 38 years and five months in prison for the three convictions.

Although Maxwell did not pull the trigger, Orange-Chatham District Attorney Jim Woodall said Maxwell and Brian Minton, were the leaders of a group involved in a home invasion, drug sales and the kidnapping and murder of Bailey.

Last summer, Brian Minton was found guilty of first-degree murder, kidnapping and conspiracy and was sentenced to life in prison without parole plus a minimum of 28 years.

Six people were charged in Bailey’s murder, and so far all but one have either pleaded guilty or been found guilty.

Bailey’s parents, who adopted him and his two younger brothers when Bailey was 9, have appeared each timea defendant has appeared in court.

“It doesn‘t get any easier,” Julie Bailey said.

Each time, Jim Woodall has gone through the evidence and the Baileys have had to listen to the story of how their son, who had multiple mental disorders, got involved with the defendants and how they bound him and drove him down a gravel road and forced Matt Johnson to shoot and kill him.

The entrance to the gravel road was just a few hundred yards from the Baileys’ home, and they have imagined over and over how close their son was to safety before he was executed.

Woodall told Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood that Maxwell and Minton were friends and often gathered in Minton’s garage in southern Chapel Hill. They were selling drugs and committed a home invasion together in Greensboro.

Bailey and Matt Johnson were friends and had recently become acquainted with Maxwell’s group and sometimes hung around with them.

The main core of friends became convinced someone might be talking to police about  their criminal activities, and they believed it most likely was Matt Johnson, but Matt Johnson was able to switch their suspicions  away from himself and onto Bailey, Woodall said.

The group decided to force Matt Johnson and Bailey to fight in the garage with the strange idea that whoever lost the fight must be the snitch, Woodall said. While it wasn’t much of a fight, afterwards, Maxwell  and Jack Johnson (no relation to Matt Johnson), bound Bailey’s hands and feet with zip ties and forced him into an SUV. Minton then drove him them north of Carrboro down Twisted Oak Court to the where Maxwell’s father lived. Carrying shovels and guns, they walked Bailey into the woods near the house.

Maxwell was carrying a small black handgun, Woodall said.

As Bailey cried, the decision was made that he had to die, Woodall said.

According to testimony in Minton’s trial, Maxwell appeared ready to shoot Bailey, but Minton said that since Matt Johnson  had brought Bailey into the group, it was Matt Johnson’s job to take him out.

The black handgun was given to Matt Johnson, and he fired a shot into Bailey’s head.

Woodall also talked about three aggravating circumstances that would enhance his sentence. They included that Maxwell took a leadership role; that the crime was especially heinous, atrocious and cruel and that the victim was suffering from a mental handicap.

When given a chance to speak, Maxwell apologized for what he had done.

“I’ve rehearsed what I was going to say today over and over in my head many times, but no matter how much I rehearse, no matter what I say, there’s nothing good enough,” Maxwell said.

“I know there are no words that can begin to explain the regret and remorse for what I’ve done,” Maxwell said.

Maxwell said he realizes now the pain he caused Bailey’s entire family.

“For that I am truly sorry,” he said. “I would give anything to take it all back, but I can’t.”

Maxwell also apologized to his own family, who had gathered in the gallery behind him for the hearing. Among those gathered was his former fiancé, who was pregnant when he was arrested in 2008.

After the hearing ended, Julie Bailey said she appreciate the apology.

“I appreciate him expressing remorse, but it’s easy to feel remorse after you’ve been caught,” she said.

Matt Johnson pleaded guilty last month to second-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping. He was sentenced to a total of approximately 24 to 30 years in prison.

Brandon Green, one of the main defendants, has not yet had his case resolved.

Minton’s parents, Greg and Michele Minton, who are accused of helping the group destroy evidence and move the body to Jordan Lake, also have not had their cases resolved.

Jack Johnson also has pleaded guilty in the case and testified for the state during Minton’s trial. He has not yet been sentenced.