Arrest shocks community
Published 6:37 pm Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Former Belhaven chief is charged with murder in 36-year-old shooting
By GREG KATSKI
When news spread from Onslow County to Beaufort County that recently fired Belhaven Police Chief George Hayden was being charged with murder in a shooting death that occurred 36 years ago, a shock wave hit the Belhaven community.
The effects of Hayden’s arrest on his neighbors, the town and his family members resulted in the former police chief’s predicament becoming the Washington Daily News’ No. 5 story of 2008. Hayden was fired from his position of police chief in Belhaven in March.
Hayden was arrested at his house on Portside Lane near Belhaven the night of Sept. 8. His arrest was carried out 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. He was charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the 1972 shooting death of Marine Corps Sgt. William Miller.
Miller was found dead — the result of gunshot wounds to his head and back — in the middle of Western Boulevard in Jacksonville.
A day later, Hayden’s alleged accomplice, Vickie Miller Babbitt, was arrested in Bend, Ore., on charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
The arrests came as a result of two cold-case articles written by Lindell Kay, a reporter for the Jacksonville Daily News. Kay researched the Miller cold-case after he was contacted by Sharron Aguilar, Miller’s sister. After much investigating, Kay wrote two articles about the unsolved case.
After reading the articles, a key witness in the case felt compelled to come forward with new information about the shooting. The witness provided enough evidence for authorities to arrest Hayden and Babbitt.
As more and more information became public, the shrouded history of the cold-case became clearer.
Miller’s family members, including Aguilar and three daughters, came forward to tell of their 36-year struggle to find Miller’s killer(s).
Kimberly Henige, the oldest of Miller’s daughters, remembered playing with her father as a young girl.
Henige said the news of Hayden’s arrest “knocked me off my heels.”
Miller’s youngest daughter, and his only child by Babbitt, Wendy Miller-McGee, grew up around Babbitt and Hayden.
When she found out that her mother and stepfather were the only suspects in her father’s death, Miller-McGee was determined to bring justice to her father’s alleged killers.
Miller-McGee said she was “pretty shocked.”
Miller-McGee called her aunt, Aguilar, who was deeply involved with the investigation of her brother’s death.
But the big break in the case wouldn’t come for another decade.
Hayden’s longtime neighbors in Belhaven also were surprised by his arrest.
Former Belhaven Mayor Charles Boyette said the former police chief was dutiful and never displayed any attitude problems while he was on the town’s police force.
As the history of the cold-case came together in the media, Hayden was awaiting his bond hearing. In early October, an Onslow County District Court judge ruled that Hayden’s bond be set at $350,000.
Hayden posted bail in early November, much to the dismay of Miller’s family and others.