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Joshua McCabe Bailey, like many 20-year-olds, was eager for independence. Instead of living with his parents in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, he couch-surfed with friends. Nonetheless, Josh regularly stayed in touch with his parents.
When he failed to show up for his mom’s birthday celebration, his parents grew very worried. Their concern was exacerbated by the fact that Josh, who’d last been seen on July 21, 2008, had some mental difficulties.
“He was very trusting, which was not always a good thing,” his father, Steve Bailey, told “Twisted Killers,” airing Thursdays at 9/8c on Oxygen.
When Tim Horne, a retired major with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, took over the case he said, “The first thing I did was a BOLO — be on the lookout,” adding that he canvassed Josh’s circle of friends for information.
Horne expanded his search using a network of police reports filed in nearby jurisdictions. He found that Josh was listed as a suspect in a residential break-in on July 28. Horne was alarmed, he told producers, when he read other possible suspects included Matt Johnson and Brian Minton, 18.
“I had dealt with Brian from the time he was very young, a juvenile,” said Jim Woodall, District Attorney, Chatham and Orange counties. “He was convicted of a firearms offense. Brian had the potential to be very violent.”
He was also charged with rape and was a suspect in an arson, investigators said.
Horne interviewed a member of the family whose home Josh allegedly robbed. He learned that .22 rifles had been taken and returned by Brian, who’d claimed that Johnson and Josh came to him with the stolen firearms.
Detectives made speaking with Johnson and Minton for information about Josh a priority. Minton was uncooperative.
Johnson had checked himself into a mental facility in late July. At the facility Horne interviewed Johnson, who was paranoid about being overhead. He said that Minton’s garage was where a gang of people aged 18 to 20 hung out: “They partied, did drugs, and planned criminal activity,” investigators said.
Minton was the enforcer of that group of kids, according to Charles Blackwood, Sheriff, Orange County. “They were loyal to one another but there was also that factor of being afraid of what would happen if they tried to separate themselves from that group.”
Johnson had introduced Josh to the group, but Josh wasn’t considered a member of the gang. Johnson had also told Josh before that he’d been in so much trouble he was thinking about being a narc so authorities would cut him some slack.
On July 29 Minton said he wanted to buy marijuana, Johnson told the detective. At that moment, Josh blurted out that Johnson was a narc.
“According to Matt, Brian thought he was being set up,” said Horne.
It was ultimately decided that Josh was actually the narc. Minton and several members of the gang took Josh away in a car. An hour and a half later, they returned without Josh. Minton warned Johnson not to cross him or he’d end up like Josh.
Johnson also shared a list of people involved, people who he knew only by nicknames.
The case had shifted from a missing persons to a homicide and the State Bureau of Investigation was brought in, as detectives tracked down the names of the people involved.
Investigators reinterviewed Johnson and appealed to his sense of humanity, detectives said. At this point, he changed his story. He admitted didn’t stay behind when the group took Josh away. He was part of the gang that walked Josh to a remote wooded area.
“Matt told us Jack Johnson was the one who shot Josh,” said Philip Stevens, Asst. Special Agent in Charge, NC SBI. He also told detectives he’d take them to the spot where the body was.
When they reached the area, the body wasn’t there, but a telltale smell of decomposition hung in the air. Had the body been moved?
As investigators worked the area, gang member Jacob Maxwell drove by. Maxwell was arrested and arrest warrants were obtained for Brian Minton and Jack Johnson.
Because officials didn’t have Josh’s body, suspects were charged with kidnapping. Each suspect gave their version of events.
“Jack Johnson was telling them he didn’t fire the shot that killed Josh Bailey,” said former NYC prosecutor Beth Karas. “It was Matt Johnson ... But one thing that Jack and Matt agree on is that Brian ordered it. And that means legally Brian Minton could be implicated in the murder of Josh Bailey.”
That has happened in infamous cases before.
“Charles Manson was never actually convicted of killing anybody,” said Dr. Kate Termine, forensic psychologist. “He had others killed for him, which is exactly what Brian Minton has done.”
Investigators reached out to other members of the gang who hadn’t been arrested. Gary Bright informed them that after the shooting had occurred, Minton laughed about the way Josh fell after he’d been shot.
“Then Gary told me that Matt Johnson got intoxicated and emotional and confessed that he was the one who killed Josh,” said Stevens.
Thorne added that Bright said that Matt admitted to him “that he had to do it because they were going to kill him also if he didn’t pull the trigger.” Bright also said he thought he knew where Josh's body was.
On September 12, a cadaver dog led detectives to human remains. The recovery of his body was done with painstaking care to preserve DNA evidence that could still be intact.
The medical examiner identified the remains as those of Josh Bailey and determined that he was the victim of gunshots.
“He was executed,” said Justin Heinrich, special agent, NC SBI. “He was shot in the back of the head.”
Detectives reinterviewed Matt Johnson, who said that when the group brought Josh into the woods he was given a gun. Minton held a .38 to his head and told Johnson to shoot Josh or he would be killed. Matt shot Josh and when the body fell Minton told him to shoot him again.
Matt Johnson was arrested. A warrant was obtained to search Brian Minton’s mother’s SUV. Along with .9 mm rounds, receipts for muriatic acid, which was found at the grave site, were recovered from the vehicle.
The acid can be used to hasten decomposition. Minton’s DNA was found on a latex glove recovered with Josh’s body.
“Brian Minton was the Charles Manson,” said Thorne. “He ran the show. He dictated who did what. He was the most culpable of the group.”
Woodall was struck by how many people were involved in the crime. “Sometimes we underestimate criminal activity as it relates to gangs and this case … exemplifies how far they are willing to go,” said retired LAPD investigator Tracey Benjamin.
Gary Bright testified for the state and wasn’t charged.
Matt Johnson, Jack Johnson, and Jacob Maxwell pleaded guilty to kidnapping and second-degree murder and each received at least 25 years in prison.
Brian Minton, then 22, was sentenced to life without parole in prison for murder and an additional 28 to 35 years for other charges of kidnapping and conspiracy.
The judge said “ this is as cold-blooded of a killing as I have seen,” reported wral.com.
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