Friday, May 7, 2010


Hayden’s murder trial scheduled to begin May 17

Community Editor
Published: Friday, May 7, 2010 2:15 AM EDT
William Miller’s family is eagerly awaiting the start of former Belhaven police chief George Hayden’s murder trial in Onslow County Superior Court on May 17.

Hayden has been charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the 1972 shooting death of Miller, a former Marine Corps sergeant. Miller was found dead in the middle of Jacksonville’s Western Boulevard, the result of gunshot wounds to his head and back.

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.

The arrests came as a result of two cold-case articles written by Lindell Kay in the Jacksonville Daily News. Kay researched the Onslow County cold case after he was contacted by Sharron Aguilar, Miller’s sister. After a lengthy investigation, the Jacksonville newspaper published two articles about the unsolved case.
After reading the articles, a “key witness” in the case felt compelled to come forward with new information. The witness provided enough evidence for authorities to obtain arrest warrants for Hayden and Babbitt, 36 years after Miller was fatally shot.

Now, almost 38 years after her brother’s death, Aguilar said she’s through being bitter.

“I don’t have bitterness in me anymore. I’ve had 38 years of that. I just pity him,” she said in regard to Hayden.

Aguilar is set to arrive in Jacksonville on May 14, three days before the beginning of Hayden’s trial. Aguilar said she has a meeting scheduled that day with Assistant District Attorney Mike Maultsby “just to say ‘Thank you.’”

“We’re thankful that the DA picked up this case,” she said.

Aguilar, a self-professed spiritual person, said it’s no coincidence that she is set to meet with the district attorney’s office on her mother’s birthday anniversary.

“That’s a pretty good sign for me,” she said.

Her mother, Emily Miller, died in 1994 following a lengthy bout with multiple sclerosis. The Miller family believes the murder of Emily’s son, William, played a role in her gradual deterioration.

Aguilar’s niece, Wendy Miller-McGee, is expected to arrive in Jacksonville on May 17 for the start of Hayden’s trial. She is the only daughter of Miller and Babbitt, who were married at the time of Miller’s death.

According to Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown, Miller was coaxed — by Babbitt — to a secluded area off Western Boulevard, where he was ambushed and shot by Hayden. Babbitt is scheduled to stand trial in Onslow County Superior Court sometime after Hayden’s trial begins.

For Miller-McGee, Hayden’s trial brings mixed emotions. She was raised by Hayden, who became her stepfather when he married her mother, Babbitt, shortly after Miller was killed.

Miller-McGee said she wants justice for her father, but not at the expense of her mother and stepfather.

“It’s a very hard situation for me because I feel like I’m in the middle of it all,” she said. “I want to know what happened to my dad, but at the same time it’s my mom, who I grew up with my whole life.”

Miller-McGee said it’ll be tough for her to face the truth, whatever it proves to be.

“It’s hard to think that maybe they were involved. That’s a very hard thing to take,” she said. “I’m torn. I don’t know how I should feel about everything.”

With every day that moves closer to the start of Hayden’s trial, Miller-McGee said she becomes more anxious.

“I don’t know what to expect, so I have a lot of anxiety,” she said. “It’s very overwhelming.”

Miller-McGee has found support from her father’s side of the family. She will be staying with the Miller family, including her father’s five siblings and her half sister, Tamara, at a Jacksonville hotel for the duration of Hayden’s trial and sentencing hearing.

“They’re kind of my support. They try to make me feel very comfortable, at ease,” Miller-McGee said. “Basically, that’s who I have right now.”

Aguilar said she sympathizes with her niece, and that they talk on the phone often.

“Our nerves are ready to pop,” she said. “But we all know it’s going to be particularly hard on Wendy. She hasn’t seen her mother in years.”

“She’s strong. We’ll get her through it,” Aguilar added.

As for what she expects out of the trial, she said, “This whole case has been full of surprises up until now, so God knows what’s going to happen.”

1 comment:

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