LISBON - The prosecution rested and the defense presented three witnesses in less than an hour Monday to wrap up evidence in the aggravated murder trial of Christopher Miller.
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 Matthew Bailey.
Defense attorney Jennifer Gorby called three witnesses - Josh Irey, a former acquaintance of Miller; Ron Lacey, Miller's cousin; and Kathy Miller, Miller's mother.
Irey testified he was driving in the area of the Hartley Road oil access road the night before Bailey's body was found and saw a gray Ford SUV sitting in the field about 300 to 400 feet from the access road. When asked by Assistant County Prosecutor Tammie Riley Jones about what he did about what he saw, Irey said he told the sheriff's department about it during the investigation.
Irey said he went to school with Miller, but they were not friends. He told the jury he has been staying away from a lot of people from his past in order to stay out of trouble.
Lacey testified a few days before Miller was arrested he had heard he had been in some trouble, a fight of some sort and he tried to contact him to see how he was doing. Because he did not have Miller's cell phone number, Lacey said he contacted Miller's mother in order to get a number.
He initially testified he called Miller a few days before by calling Patti Colon, who was Miller's live-in girlfriend. Lacey claimed he never spoke to Miller about Bailey's death.
However, Jones questioned him on his story bringing a record from Colon's cell phone showing a call from Lacey's number at 12:34 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26, the day Bailey's body was discovered. At one point, Lacey said he may have tried to reach him on that day, but did not. However, Jones pointed out the call was for more than a minute.
When questioned by Gorby, Lacey said his reason for calling was due to getting into a fight the night before, but they would not answer his call.
Miller's mother was the final witness in the case. She verified she had given Lacey both a cell phone number for her son she believed may have no minutes on the phone and the cell phone number of Colon.
She also pointed out she had some falling out with Colon and her son, including an argument with Colon around Father's Day 2013. However, they had spoken some around the birth of a child in the family on July 30, 2013.
Kathy Miller expressed her concerns when she heard about a body being found off Hartley Road that it may have actually been her son.
"Because my son was using heroin," Miller said, "and you read about it all the time about people being found dead of an overdose."
When asked if she believes her son was also a drug dealer, Miller said she did not.
"He's a user," she said. "I don't believe that. If he's a dealer, how come he's poor."
Miller testified she learned the body was actually Bailey when Ron Lacey and his mother, who is her sister, stopped at her home shortly before 11 a.m., Oct. 27. She had been opening a gate, which blocks the driveway, and they told her. Miller said she wondered how they knew that, because the identity of the body was not in the newspaper yet.
Assistant County Prosecutor John Gamble asked Miller about the reason for the locked gate and she admitted it was because her son, her nephews Ron and Mitch Lacey and their friends had a tendency to come there and steal things. She testified her son had been caught stealing with Mitch Lacey in Carroll County. She also had helped identify her mother's lawn mower, which had been pawned at Cashland in Alliance by her son.
She also testified when her son called her from jail and told her about Bailey's death, she told him he should have called the sheriff. She said he told her he could not call because he did not have any cell phone signal.
"I told him I would have driven straight to the police station," Kathy Miller testified.
Closing arguments in the case are scheduled today.