Wednesday, December 10, 2008



COLD CASE: Arrests made in 36-year-old case of Hemet man's slain Marine Corps brother.


The Valley Chronicle

It may have been 36 years since Marine Sgt. William Donald Miller was gunned down on a North Carolina road outside Camp Lejeune, but his family has never given up on bringing the killer to justice.
Nor has there been any doubt in the minds of Miller's brother, David Miller of Hemet, and sister, Sharron Aguilar of Texas, who the killer is.
They believe their brother's wife at the time, Vickie Miller Hayden Cooper Babbitt, 58, of Bend, Ore., lured her husband to a quiet road where he was ambushed by George Hayden, 57, of North Carolina.
One shot severed Miller's spine and another struck him in the right temple.
He was found by a passing motorist lying face up in the road.
Miller said his brother returned from a year of training in Okinawa to find Hayden had moved into his house and was living with his wife and 1-year-old child Wendy.
Hayden and Babbitt were also in the Marines.
Though Miller talked Hayden into moving out of the house, his wife went too and took their child, said David Miller.
“We know she did it,” said Miller.
In fact, Miller said, a witness who could put the finger on Babbitt and Hayden, has remained silent out of fear of Hayden for three and a half decades.
The reason she feared Hayden, said Miller, is that, after he retired from the Marine Corps, Hayden became a police officer in a nearby town and eventually became police chief.

Even now, the witness does not want to be identified because she fears for her own life and the lives of family members, Aguilar said.
Hayden and Babbitt are charged with first-degree murder.
The offense would carry a potential death penalty today, but the death penalty was suspended by the Supreme Court at the time Miller was killed so prosecutors are seeking sentences of about 10 years.

Miller said it has been frustrating waiting for someone to take an interest in the case.
“Every-body dropped us,” he said.
The Marine Corps wrote it off as a civilian matter because Miller was killed off the base, while civilian authorities saw it as a Marine issue, Miller said.
Aguilar said the case would probably still be languishing had it not been for a reporter at a North Carolina newspaper who wrote a story about the case.

The witness's mother was laying newspapers on the floor for a puppy when she saw the story about the cold case. “Here was this story staring up at her,” Aguilar said. “Within three weeks, they were in jail.”
Hayden is out on $350,000 bail and Babbitt's bail hearing is scheduled for Monday.
“We've known who they were all these years,” Aguilar said.
A half-cocked .22-caliber pistol lay on the seat of the borrowed car Miller drove to the rendezvous, according to documents released by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Aguilar said.
Two spent assault rifle casings lay near the body, according to the report from the Navy.
“We think (Babbitt) had the baby with her and enticed him out of the car with the baby,” Miller said.
According to a North Carolina newspaper report, Bonnie Sharp, who baby-sat Miller's infant daughter in 1972, gave police information she had kept to herself for 36 years after the first story was published.
That information led to investigators to an eyewitness to Miller's death, according to an affidavit attached to a search warrant for Hayden's home. The affidavit said a witness admitted “he was at the crime scene when Vickie Miller flagged William Miller down and when George Hayden ambushed and shot William Miller with a rifle.”

Authorities initially refused to identify Sharp, but she decided to speak to a reporter because she knew the defendants knew who she was.
Miller said the arrests have brought his family the prospect of closure.
“We want to be able to face ‘em,” he said.
He said he last saw Babbitt several years ago when she was living in Corona.

“She's been through three husbands since then. She ended up being an alcoholic and that's probably why,” he said.B

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