Friday, May 28, 2010


Hayden’s conviction brings reactions

Community Editor
Published: Friday, May 28, 2010 2:16 AM EDT

An Onslow County jury on Wednesday found George Hayden, a former Belhaven police chief, guilty of murdering a fellow Marine in 1972. Minutes later, Hayden was sentenced to life in prison.

Hayden was transported to Central Prison in Raleigh on Wednesday night.The verdict came after jurors earlier Wednesday told Superior Court Judge Ken Crow they were unable to reach a verdict. The Daily News of Jacksonville reported that Crow instructed the jury to continue deliberating the case of the 57-year-old Hayden. He was charged with first-degree murder in the 1972 shooting death of Sgt. William Miller in Jacksonville. At that time, both were in the Marine Corps.

Jurors deliberated Friday and Tuesday before reaching the verdict Wednesday afternoon. Earlier in the trial, Crow dismissed a charge of conspiracy to commit murder that had been filed against Hayden.

After the verdict was announced, Crow denied defense motions to set aside the verdict.

Prosecutors say Miller was killed in an ambush triggered by a love triangle involving his wife at the time.

The case remained unsolved until Miller’s sister contacted a newspaper reporter looking into cold cases.

“Wow. Oh, my goodness,” said Belhaven Town Manager Guinn Leverett, reacting to the guilty verdict.

Leverett said he fired Hayden as chief of the Belhaven Police Department in March 2008 for insubordination, adding that Hayden was an “unpleasant personality.”

Leverett said Hayden used to “buck my authority” as town manager.

“It was very odd that someone that made a career in the Marine Corps didn’t understand chain of command,” he said.

Dr. Charles Boyette, who served as mayor of Belhaven for the majority of Hayden’s tenure with the town, said Hayden always conducted himself in a professional manner.

“He related well to the people in the community. He had good relations with the members in his department,” Boyette said.

Hayden became Belhaven’s acting chief of police on May 8, 2001. He was officially named police chief on Dec. 7, 2001. He came to the Belhaven Police Department in December 2000, starting as a lieutenant.

“Belhaven citizens, including the administration, were not aware of his past involvement in any unlawful procedure,” Boyette said about Hayden.

Although Boyette and Leverett disagreed over Hayden’s work with the town’s police department, they seemed to agree on the verdict.

“Certainly the facts of the case stand on their own merit,” Boyette said. “It’s unfortunate that these things happen. However, justice seems to be recognized in due time.”

Leverett echoed Boyette’s sentiments.

“The story is so horrific. My gut reaction is that it was justice delayed for a long time,” he said. “I’m not out for blood; I just think it was the right decision.”

Hayden served as chief of the Cape Carteret Police Department in 1999 and 2000. He retired from the Marine Corps in 1989, after 21 years of service.

Hayden was arrested at his house on Portside Lane near Belhaven the night of Sept. 8, 2008. A day later, Hayden’s alleged accomplice, Vickie Miller Babbitt, was arrested in Bend, Ore., on charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

“Miller survived two tours in Vietnam, then returned to Onslow County, where he was not killed by the enemy with an AK-47, but by a fellow Marine with an M-16,” Chief Assistant District Attorney Ernie Lee told the jury in Hayden’s trial on Friday.

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