Thursday, May 27, 2010


UPDATE: Hayden sentenced to life in prison
May 26, 2010 10:03 AM
Updated at 3:58 p.m.

Our family finally received justice for our brother Billy. I cannot thank all of the people who made this possible. The kindness of all involved is unbelievable.
From the wonderful agents from NCIS, detectives, Sheriff Brown, the DA's Mr. Lee and Mr.Maultsby , and their assistant Peggy Johnson. Bonnie Sharpe, Lindell, and the wonderful family of Robert Fitta,whom we adore, they held strong with the truth, waiting for justice also. We could not have had a GUILTY verdict without their help. We love them all

A young Camp Lejeune Marine in the summer of 1972, George Hayden wanted to reconnect with his Ohio high school sweetheart. But she was married to another Marine.

Hayden solved the problem by putting two bullets into the back and head of 27-year-old Sgt. William Miller.

Thirty-seven years later, an Onslow County jury convicted Hayden of first-degree murder and a judge sentenced him to life in prison Wednesday afternoon. He hugged his wife for a long moment before bailiffs took away his cigarettes and led him to jail.

After the trial, the Miller family lined up along the sidewalk outside the courthouse making phone calls and talking to reporters.

“I never lost hope; I always knew we’d get here,” said Sharron Aguilar, who kept the case of her brother’s death alive for nearly four decades.

While William Miller was in Okinawa, Hayden moved into Miller’s Piney Green area home, played house with Miller’s wife and newborn, and allegedly began to sign his name to Miller’s checks.

“He stole my brother’s home, wife and child, and money,” said Charlie Miller, the youngest of six in Miller’s family. “He tried to steal his identity, and when that didn’t work he stole Billy’s life.”

When Miller returned stateside, he beat up Hayden and tossed him out of the house in August 1972. Humiliated, Hayden told Miller he would get revenge with an M-16.

Miller’s wife, now Vickie Babbitt, followed Hayden, bringing her and Miller’s 1-year-old daughter with her.

Miller had lost two daughters in a previous marriage and he was not about to lose another one so he began to build a custody case against his wife and a criminal fraud case against Hayden. He gave the alleged evidence to a neighbor for safe keeping.

On Sept. 16, 1972, Miller received a call from his estranged wife to meet him on Western Boulevard. Less than 20 minutes later, Miller was found dead in the street, shot twice with M-16 rounds.

A few days later, Hayden showed up at the neighbor’s house and took the alleged evidence Miller had collected against him, according to court testimony.

Detectives at the time suspected Hayden of killing Miller but couldn’t gather needed evidence to arrest him.

For nearly 40 years Miller’s death went unpunished. While Miller’s family fell apart, Hayden did well. He married Miller’s wife, and stayed in touch even after their divorce. He retired from the Marine Corps and joined the Carteret County Sheriff’s Department. He went on to be police chief in Cape Carteret and Belhaven.

But he couldn’t shake local, state and federal investigators who came around every few years like clockwork asking the same question: Where were you the night William Miller died?

Aguilar, living in Houston, spent years compiling documents in the case and eventually turned them over to The Daily News. Two cold case articles in the summer of 2008 elicited new information from a witness previously unknown to law enforcement. A whirlwind investigation by the Onslow County Sheriff’s Department, Naval Criminal Investigative Services and the N.C. SBI resulted in three arrests.

Babbitt, 58, and former Marine Rodger Gill, 56, also face first-degree murder and conspiracy charges. Gill was friends with Hayden at the time and testified against him last week.

Miller’s daughter, Wendy Jo McGee, called the trial a “roller coaster ride” Wednesday afternoon. “I have been a nervous wreck for two weeks.”

The jury took three days to reach a verdict. At the start of deliberations Friday jurors were split: Four thought Hayden was guilty, four believed in his innocence and four remained undecided. By Wednesday morning when the jury said they were having difficulties reaching a verdict the split had narrowed: nine guilty and three not guilty, jury members told The Daily News after the trial.

Later in the day, they had reached their consensus: guilty.

“This was the most difficult decision of my entire life,” one juror said.

Sandwiched between the guilty verdict and sentencing, N.C. Superior Court Judge Ken Crow conducted a inquiry into possible juror misconduct to determine the validity of an anonymous Crime Stoppers tip that Juror No. 3 had discussed the trial, described crime scene photographs and called Hayden “creepy.”

After interviewing the juror, Crow ruled that the allegations were groundless and the verdict would stand. Crow determined that more than likely the tip came from the juror’s estranged spouse in an attempt to skew an ongoing custody battle.

The Miller family will return to Jacksonville for Babbitt’s trial, which has not been scheduled yet.

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