Parade of prosecution witnesses testify in 2nd day of murder trial
LISBON – Investigators and several people who saw or heard from accused murderer Christopher L. Miller on the day Matthew Bailey’s body was discovered testified on Thursday. The county prosecutor’s office placed eight witnesses on the stand in the second day of testimony.
Miller, 36, U.S. Route 62, Salem, is charged in Common Pleas Court with aggravated murder, murder and tampering with evidence.
The morning began with investigators from the county sheriff’s office, Detective Sgt. Steven Walker and Lt. Brian McLaughlin, both members of the countywide homicide task force.
Walker was the first investigator to respond to the cornfield and the oil well access road off Hartley Road in Butler Township after local residents found the body on Saturday, Oct. 26. He described how the scene looked when he first arrived and then the Bureau of Criminal Information and Investigation was called.
Both detectives described Bailey’s tattoo, a Nine Inch Nails logo on his wrist, and Bailey’s unusual tinted glasses, which were found near his legs. Both the tattoo and glasses were used to identify his body, which McLaughlin said was struck several times, leaving the face “pretty unrecognizable.”
After learning Bailey’s identity, detectives searched his apartment and began interviewing those in his neighborhood.
McLaughlin went into detail about what they believed to be blood splatter he photographed after they were found by investigators on Oct. 28 on leaves and tree limbs eight feet from where the body was found.
McLaughlin also testified about a search for the weapon done soon after the death and how investigators walked in a grid fashion through one field where the corn had already been combined. Walker talked about how several went back to the field on Nov. 6 in another event to find evidence as the farmer combined the remaining standing corn near where the body was found. Neither search turned up a murder weapon.
Finally, Larry Hootman, a BCII agent, went into detail about the position of the body, a possible boot impression found on the back of Bailey’s left pant leg and blood found at the scene. He would later state the boot impression was analyzed by another lab technician and it was determined the tread pattern was similar in shape, size and spacing to Miller’s boots, although it did not eliminate anyone else wearing the same type of boot.
Hootman also went into great length about blood found both on the outside and inside of the black Ford Escape owned by Miller’s girlfriend, Patti Colon. Hootman testified about spots of blood placed there while the passenger door was open and blood on the steering wheel, seat belt, buckle and dash – mostly all on the passenger side of the vehicle.
After finding and photographing all the blood visible to the naked eye, Hootman testified he sprayed the seats, carpets and ceiling with a chemical called Blue Star, which reacts to blood. Streaks of blood were reportedly found on the seat belt and near the head rest of passenger seat and down the right side.
Defense attorney Charley Kidder challenged Hootman’s Blue Star findings, bringing out a handbook for using the chemicals and asking if certain protocol was followed. For instance, Kidder said the book says as a control the same test should be conducted on the same materials, where it is known there is no blood. Hootman countered he did not know when he conducted the test if there was any place in the vehicle where no blood would be present. He also said he tested the chemical by spraying it on a copper penny, which causes a spark when it is working.
Kidder also questioned whether Hootman wore protective clothing, as the handbook suggested, to keep the test from being contaminated. Hootman said he wore only a mask, gloves and goggles.
Kidder asked about the saturated blood in the field where Bailey was found and whether if anyone stepped in the blood it would have ended up on their boots. Hootman noted it would.
Throughout the afternoon, several witnesses took the stand testifying about seeing either Miller or both Miller and Bailey together around the time of the murder.
Jonathan Phillips of Salem said Bailey was his girlfriend’s uncle and he saw him often, including twice on Friday, Oct. 25 and the morning of Saturday, Oct. 26. Miller was with Bailey both days.
Phillips said he stopped at Bailey’s apartment at about 9 a.m. Saturday morning and offered to take Bailey to work on a truck with him to earn some extra money. However, Bailey declined and Phillips said he heard Bailey and Miller discussing taking someone named “Pete to Youngstown and splitting a kilo for the ride.” Miller and Bailey left Colon’s vehicle and Phillips never saw him alive again.
Defense attorney Jennifer Gorby questioned if there seemed to be any argument or problem between Bailey and Miller when Phillips saw them and he said no. He later said about two months earlier than Bailey’s death there had been a problem between them involving an air compressor stolen from Bailey.
A neighbor of Bailey’s apartment, John Lagore, testified he saw the black Ford Escape with the temporary tag parked in the apartment lot at about 8 p.m. that Friday and both 12:30 a.m. and 7 a.m. Saturday. But it was gone when he looked out at about 11 a.m. Saturday. He had even spoken briefly to Miller, who was out taping down the temporary tag when Lagore was taking out the trash.
Wanda Bender, a West State Street resident, testified Miller came to her house and worked on machinery with Jeff Odey, whom she lives with, on Oct. 18. Then Miller called at around 10:30 a.m. Oct. 26 to ask if Odey had any work for him to do. However, Odey was not home.
Gayle and Mervin Hilliard, residents of King Road near Salem, told jurors about Miller stopping by their home on the afternoon of Oct. 26 sometime shortly after 2:30 p.m.
Before Mervin Hilliard returned home from work, Miller reportedly sat on a stool near the woodburner fire and said he was deleting things from a cellphone he had with him, a phone Gayle Hilliard said looked like it had been “chewed by a dog” and had tape on it. Miller also showed Mervin Hilliard a red box he could make appear around the screen of his cellphone.
“That’s what I call the red ring of death,” Mervin Hilliard quoted Miller as telling him.
Both noted Miller strangely kept unlacing and relacing his boots and Mervin Hilliard noted at one point Miller took off two pairs of socks, put one back on and left the house for a short while before returning. Both testified Miller parked by backing up to the garage.
Mervin Hilliard also testified about Miller wearing a bandanna, but lifting it up to show him the two- to three-inch cut on the back of his head. He believed it may be recent because Miller asked him if it was still bleeding, but it had scabbed over. Miller told the couple he had been struck in the head by a pipe while working.
Mervin Hilliard said Miller borrowed a router, a woodworking tool, and offered to buy a stool from his wife for $5, although they never got the money. Both the router and stool were found later in the black Ford Escape. Miller also offered to sell Hilliard some tools, asking him for money for them and offering to then go get the tools, but Hilliard declined.