Hayden facing murder charge
Published 9:51 pm Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Former Belhaven chief is accused of killing a Marine 36 years ago
By GREG KATSKI
George Hayden, a former Belhaven police chief, faces a first-degree murder charge in the death of William Miller, a Marine shot to death nearly 36 years ago.
Hayden, 57, was arrested at his house near Belhaven on Monday night, In addition to the murder charge, he was charged with conspiracy to commit murder.
Hayden’s arrest was carried out at 9:20 p.m. by agents with the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, Naval Criminal Investigative Service, U.S. Marshals Service, North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and Onslow County Sheriff’s Office, according to a press release issued by the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday.
Hayden, a former Marine, was confined to the Onslow County Jail, where he is being held without benefit of bail.
Miller, found dead on Sept. 16, 1972, died as the result of two gunshot wounds, one to his temple and one to the back, according to reports from the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office.
A second suspect in Miller’s death, Vickey Miller Hayden Babbitt, 58, faces the same charges Hayden faces. According to the press release, Babbitt was expected to be arrested Tuesday afternoon at her house in Deschutes County, Ore., although law-enforcement officials in that county could not confirm the arrest had been made by Tuesday night..
Babbitt was married to Miller at the time of his death.
Miller returned home to Jacksonville from a Marine Corps-training exercise in 1972 to find his wife and Hayden living together in the Miller’s house, according to media reports. Soon after, Hayden and Babbitt moved out of Miller’s house, according to Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown.
On the day Miller was killed, Babbitt led him to a secluded, wooded area off Western Boulevard in Onslow County. Miller was then met by Hayden, who shot him in the temple and back with a M-16 assault rifle, according to Brown in media reports.
Hayden and Babbitt married three months later, but are now divorced.
They have been the only suspects in the case since it was opened, said Lindell Kay, a crime reporter for the Jacksonville Daily News.
In its press release, the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office gives significant credit for the arrests in the 36-year-old case to Kay.
Kay, who began covering cold cases in Onslow County for the newspaper in April, was contacted by Miller’s sister about the unsolved murder.
Kay wrote two articles about the case, one about the impact of Miller’s murder on his family and the other concerning hard facts about the case.
That witness told the sheriff’s office he (or she) had been withholding information “too long,” said Kay.
The witness became a springboard for a deeper investigation by the NCIS, Kay said.
Kay believes the witness must have had “tangible evidence” to persuade the investigating agencies to go after Hayden and Babbitt.
Kay said Hayden and Babbitt have always been the only suspects in the case, but there was never enough evidence to arrest them, until now.
Investigators found two M-16 shell casings at the scene of the crime, but could not prove they were from a gun fired by Hayden, Kay said.
They tried to match those with an M-16 they thought Hayden, who was a Marine at the time Miller was killed, had access to, Kay said.
A witness also identified Hayden’s vehicle as the one seen leaving the scene of the crime.
On Friday, the sheriff’s office decided it had enough evidence to make the arrests.
Hayden’s arrest came as a surprise to many people, said Kay.