LISBON - The live-in girlfriend of Christopher Miller and an inmate he confided to at the county jail were among those who testified about Miller's involvement with the drug trade and Matthew Bailey on Friday.
Miller, 36, U.S. Route 62, Salem, is charged in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court with aggravated murder, murder and tampering with evidence in the bludgeoning death of Bailey last October.
Patti Colon, Miller's girlfriend at the time of the murder, testified that several months before October, Miller had Colon drop him at Bailey's house because Bailey owed some money for drugs, and Miller was going to collect it. Miller reportedly went inside with a wrench. Instead of coming out with money, Colon said Miller returned with an air compressor.
Colon also said after he was taken into custody, she visited Miller at the county jail, spoke to Miller on the phone and even on a cell phone inmates had in the jail. When asked if she ever talked to him about Bailey's murder, Colon said Miller blamed her for it happening.
"If I (Colon) didn't need the money, none of this would have happened," Colon said of Miller's comments to her, adding Miller said, "He was in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Finally, she said he didn't want to talk to her about it any further, because he said he did not want her to have to testify against him in court.
Colon said after Miller's arrest, she believed she was contacted through friends by Pete, Miller's drug dealer, who she described as black, husky man, a little taller than Miller. She said she hung up as soon as she knew who it was.
Others also testified about Pete and Miller's possible involvement with Pete in collecting drug money. Robert Barrett from East Liverpool, who is currently serving eight months in Lorain Correctional Institution on a breaking and entering conviction, talked about meeting Miller in the county jail first in October and November of 2013. At first the two had a problem with each other because Barrett said he had heard Miller was talking to deputies, which usually means someone is "snitching" on other inmates.
But when Barrett returned to the county jail in January, the two worked out their differences and even worked together to keep a contraband cell phone charged.
Barrett testified he once heard Miller talking on the cell phone say, "'It's not my fault. I didn't want it to go that far.'or something like that." Barrett said he believed Miller was talking about Bailey, saying he wished he could go back and change things, but he could not.
According to Barrett, Bailey was a meth manufacturer, and Pete supplies people with heroin and cocaine. Barrett said Miller worked for Pete, selling 10th-of-a-gram bags of heroin known as fingers, 10 bag groups known as bundles and 50 bag groups known as bricks.
Barrett said Miller introduced Bailey to Pete. When Bailey ended up owing money to Pete, that was when Pete reportedly got angry with Miller and sent Miller to settle things up. According to Barrett, Miller was supposed to just get Bailey and bring him to a location so he and Pete could settle things, but he lost his temper.
"He just got so mad, lost his temper, snapped," Barrett said of what Miller reportedly told him in jail. "He blacked out, and when he came to, there was blood everywhere."
Barrett said Miller later went back to check on Bailey, but he was not fine.
Defense attorney Jennifer Gorby tried to discredit Barrett's testimony. Barrett had made a deal with the prosecutor's office that they would not charge him with failing to appear in another case in return for his testimony. She also questioned why he thought Miller was a "snitch" when that was what he was doing there in court, but Barrett said it was different, because investigators came to him for the information.
Michael Main, a recovering drug addict, also testified about one time when he had been "fronted" some heroin by Pete to feed his addiction, and Miller became concerned with whether or not he had repaid the money.
"(Miller) said he knows that person real well," Main said, "and there would be repercussions if I didn't pay the guy back."
Main said Miller had called Pete to confirm the debt had been paid, noting Miller had a "dark look" in his eyes.
Sgt. Steve Boyd of the Columbiana County Sheriff's Office testified by video deposition, because he was unavailable on Friday. Boyd said when Miller was taken into custody on a warrant on the night of Saturday, Oct. 26, he became antsy because investigators were looking at Colon's vehicle, a black Ford Escape. The next day, Miller asked to talk to Boyd and reportedly admitted to being with Bailey on the morning he was killed. According to the story Miller allegedly gave Boyd, Mitch Lacey, John Stoffer, Bailey and Miller were together, and Bailey was texting a girl trying to get some drugs. Bailey and Miller left and went to a parking lot in Salem where they saw a silver car. They drove around Perry Township because Miller, who had a warrant, did not want to be seen by Perry Township police who knew him, and they ended up off Hartley Road.
Miller reportedly told Boyd he was standing in front of his vehicle, texting his girlfriend, when he was struck in the back of the head and when he came to he found Bailey dead and blood all over his vehicle.
Colon also testified about her sometimes rocky relationship with Miller, including that she and his mother had already contacted deputies knowing he had a warrant. She had planned to leave him after he had been taken into custody. There had also been some accusations from Miller about Colon cheating on him.
Colon had thrown a Halloween party for her daughter on Saturday, and Miller was not with her most of the day. She testified that at one point before the party, Miller's cousin, Ron Lacey, called Colon's cell phone and told Miller about police finding Bailey's body that morning. Colon said Miller acted upset and agitated by the news.
When they arrived back at their mobile home after the party, Miller was reportedly agitated again, telling Colon he was concerned police may come to get him.
Jurors also heard testimony from Nick Senanefes, who talked about a scuffle he had allegedly had with Miller on the Friday evening before Bailey's body was found.