LISBON - Christopher Miller was found guilty Wednesday of tampering with evidence in the slaying of Matthew Bailey, but the Columbiana County Common Pleas Court jury was hung on the charges of aggravated murder and murder.
Miller, 36, U.S. Route 62, Salem, was charged in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court with aggravated murder, murder and tampering with evidence in the bludgeoning death of Bailey last October.
After the jury's verdict, Judge C. Ashley Pike asked the attorneys to provide him with their recommendations for sentencing. Assistant County Prosecutor John Gamble talked about Miller's long history of property crimes and acts of violence against women. Gamble added that Miller has abused his girlfriend, Patti Colon, and has a long history of drug addiction.
Gamble continued there was "compelling testimony" regarding Miller's actions following Matthew Bailey's death and he believed Miller should receive the longest term possible for the third-degree felony he was convicted of, three years in prison.
Defense attorney Charley Kidder said he disagreed the evidence was compelling, citing that the jury took two days to deliberate before reaching the verdict. He asked for a nine month sentence and noted he believes Miller may be eligible for eight months of credit for time served.
At the advice of Kidder, Miller did not make a statement before sentencing.
Pike then sentenced Miller to three years in prison and asked the attorneys to provide him information on Thursday about how much credit each believes Miller is eligible to receive.
The case is far from over. A new trial date was set on Nov. 4, when the aggravated murder and murder charges will be presented before another jury.
Pike thanked the jurors for their service, noting that even though they were unable to reach a verdict in two of the charges, the court was appreciative for the time they had taken from their lives to hear and deliberate the case.
The trial began with jury selection on Wednesday, June 18, and final arguments were given on Tuesday morning. The jury spent most of the afternoon Tuesday and all day Wednesday deliberating, finally coming to the conclusion they would be unable to sway one last juror late in the day.
After the case concluded the holdout juror came to the newspaper office and shared that she had many doubts and was unable to get past them in order to join the others in a guilty verdict despite their best efforts to sway her.
She said she believes Miller was there when Bailey was killed, but does not believe he was the only one there.
"He knows who did it, but he's not going to say," she said. "He fears for his family's life and his own life."
She said she believes others involved with the drug trade had issues with Bailey, who was making meth which was stealing the business of other drug dealers and he owed the drug dealers money. When Miller was questioned by detectives he mentioned Bailey being nervous about people talking.
The juror also does not believe one person could beat someone all around the head unless he was beaten, rolled over, beaten and rolled again.
Additionally, the prosecutor's office did not find the murder weapon and she believes there was more than one. Instead of a hammer with a claw as was suggested by Gamble during closing arguments, she pictured a hatchet and something else. She had looked a long time at the photographs and said she believes Bailey was punched in at least two places, but there were no marks on Miller's hands. There were also small, deep wounds on his face and she said the hammer would not have made those.
The juror also questioned how there was only a little blood visible in the gray inside of the hood of the jacket Bailey was found wearing. She believed it was placed on him after the murder, because if he had been wearing it when he was killed there would have been a lot of blood in the hood.
The juror also questioned the time frame, only 45 minutes to an hour for one person to kill Bailey, get rid of the weapon or weapons, clean up the blood evidence, wash the blood off himself, burn or hide his clothing and go home to Colon. She questioned the prosecution's assertion that Miller got rid of his clothes, asking if he had another pair of boots in the vehicle why would he keep wearing the ones with blood on them.
She also considered many of the investigation techniques and noted she does not blame the sheriff's office, but believes they need additional resources here with more investigators and local experts instead of bringing in the Bureau of Criminal Information and Investigation. She wondered if the back seat of the vehicle was checked for the hair of the girl, who Miller had told investigators was there with Miller and Bailey.
"I believe (Miller) was in the wrong place at the wrong time," she said. "They did not read him his rights (before taking him into custody on the failure to appear warrant) and they treated him like he did it from the beginning."
She also questioned why Miller was not taken to a hospital to be checked because of his head wound the first night he was taken into custody. She noted he was not given something for his headache until 20 hours later when he was first interviewed by detectives and she believes he may have had a concussion. She thought he seemed confused on Oct. 27 and 28, when he was first interviewed by deputies, and much clearer on Feb. 4, when he gave the version of his account of the crime.
The juror also did not believe the testimony of Robert Barrett, the inmate at the county jail who said he heard Miller admit to killing Bailey by blacking out and beating him with his bare hands. Again she noted Miller had no marks on his hands and Barrett even testified he did not like Miller at first because he thought he was a "narking" on others. Then he snitched on Miller in court and got a deal from prosecutors that he would not be charged with a failure to appear in court for doing so.
"I did not believe anything (Barrett) said," she said.
Following the case, Gamble and co-counsel Assistant County Prosecutor Tammie Riley Jones said they spoke to 10 or 11 of the jurors, who said they had a difficult time convincing the last juror. However, after speaking with them, Gamble said he believes the case is winnable next time.
"We're especially confident after having spoken to the (jurors)," Gamble said. "It's pretty clear the evidence was pretty compelling to them. The case should be tried again and we have every reason to expect the right verdict in November."
Gamble said he and Jones would also like to thank the jury for their service.