Thursday, June 3, 2010
BY ASHLEY KEESIS-WOOD • ASHLEYKEESIS@WINDSORBEACON.COM • JUNE 2, 2010
Justice for her murdered father has been 37 years in coming for Wendy (Miller) McGee, but the Windsorite received a dose of it on May 26.
A jury in Onslow County, N.C., found George Hayden, 59, a former police chief in the area, guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Sgt. William Donald Miller.
Hayden was sentenced to life in prison.
“It was a nerve-wracking couple of weeks,” McGee said. “Now I have mixed feelings.”
McGee, 40, was almost 2 years old when her father, Sgt. William Donald Miller, was found shot to death in Jacksonville, N.C., on Sept. 16, 1972.
Authorities found Miller's car on the shoulder of a road in Jacksonville, N.C., with the engine running, the lights on, a blinker clicking and a cocked pistol on the seat. Miller was found lying in the middle of a rural road. He had been shot in the right temple and the back.
No arrests were made. For 36 years, the death of her father had been an unsolved cold case.
It looked like it might remain that way indefinitely, but in August 2008, a witness came forward with new information that allowed the case to be reopened.
The discovery of the suspects, however, has opened a door of pain for McGee.
McGee's mother, Vickie Miller Hayden Cooper Babbitt, 58, was charged along with Hayden with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
The information given by the new witness in 2008 also led to the arrest of a third suspect, Roger Gill, an ex-Marine and friend of Babbitt and Hayden’s.
“I really don’t remember much about being in the courtroom or leaving after the sentence,” McGee said. “I was there for the whole trial, but it was strange to sit and listen to them talk about me as though I wasn’t there.”
Miller and Hayden were friends in the Marine Corps. But once Miller returned from a tour in Vietnam, he found Hayden had moved into his mobile home. After kicking Hayden out, Babbitt left with him and their 1-year-old daughter – McGee.
One month later, Babbitt called Miller asking to meet her in a parking lot because of car troubles. Shortly after, motorists found Miller's body.
Four months after Miller's death, Hayden and Babbitt married. They later divorced.
“I feel bad for his (Hayden’s) family, and my brother,” McGee said, referring to her half-brother, fathered by Hayden. “They were innocent bystanders in all this, like me.”
Two more trials await McGee and the rest of the Miller family. Both Babbitt and Gill have yet to stand trial, and dates have not been set yet.
“It’s still going to be difficult for awhile,” McGee said. “But it’s a start.”
Posted by BILLY at 7:37 AM