Charges Dropped In 1972 Onslow Murder Case

Two people who were facing charges in the 1972 death of a Camp Lejeune Marine will not stand trial after all.

That's because the district attorney has dismissed charges against Vickie Babbitt and Rodger Gill in the death of Bill Miller. The two, along with former Belhaven police chief George Hayden, were accused of killing the Marine who was married to Babbitt at the time. After the murder Babbitt married Hayden.

The D.A. says there is insufficient evidence against Babbitt & Gill to continue with their murder charges. Earlier this year a jury convicted Hayden of first degree murder and he was given life in prison.

In a news release, District Attorney-Elect Ernie Lee says problems with the case against Gill arose when they found out a majority of the interview with the suspect had not been recorded. Lee says the missing parts included portions where Gill admitted being there when Hayden killed Miller.

As for Babbitt, the D.A. says during Hayden's trial the judge dismissed the conspiracy charge against him. Lee says since much of the same incriminating evidence would be presented in her trial, that ruling obviously would be detrimental to their theory that Babbitt conspired with Hayden to murder Miller.

District Attorney News Release

In May 2010, Senior Assistant District Attorney Michael Maultsby and I tried George Hayden for the first degree murder of William "Bill" Miller. This case occurred on September 16, 1972 on Western Boulevard in Jacksonville, NC. The evidence showed that Hayden shot and killed Miller with an M-16 assault rifle. The evidence showed that Hayden had made threats against Bill Miller. These threats occurred while Hayden was engaged in a relationship with Vickie Babbit formerly Vickie Miller. On May 26, 2010, after almost 38 years from the date of offense, the jury returned a verdict of guilty of first degree murder against Hayden and he was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Two co-defendants were charged in the September 1972 murder of Miller. Vickie Babbit, once married to Bill Miller was charged in September 2008 by the Onslow County Sheriff's Office with first degree murder and conspiracy to commit first degree murder of Bill Miller. On April 7, 2009, Vickie Babbit was indicted for first degree murder and conspiracy to commit first degree murder of Bill Miller. On January 13, 2009, Rodger Gill was indicted with first degree murder and conspiracy to commit first degree murder of Bill Miller. Due to insufficient evidence at this time, charges against both Vickie Babbit and Rodger Gill are being dismissed.

During the summer of 2008, the Onslow County Sheriff's Office and the Naval Criminal Investigative Services were involved in the investigation of a cold case homicide. United States Marine William "Bill" Miller was the victim of the homicide. George Hayden had long been suspected by law enforcement of killing Miller. At time of the murder, September of 1972, Hayden was involved in an extramarital affair with Miller's wife Vickie.

The Sheriff's Office received information that Rodger Gill, a person who had been interviewed several times over the years may have actually been present at the scene of the crime while the murder was committed. Prior to 2008, this information had been unknown to investigators involved in the case. In August of 2008, an investigator from the OCSO and an investigator from NCIS went to Illinois to interview Rodger Gill.

Gill was eventually charged and indicted with aiding and abetting in the murder of Bill Miller. The primary basis for indicting Gill were statements that Gill made to investigators in which Gill admitted that he was present at the time Miller was shot by George Hayden. Gill claimed he was present along with George Hayden and Vickie at a secluded location where Miller had been lured.

Prior to this incident, Gill was aware that Hayden had made threats to kill Miller. Gill obtained this information through his friendship relationship with George Hayden and Vickie. After the killing, according to other witnesses, Gill asked his girlfriend at the time to provide an alibi for him.

Gill was charged with the murder of Bill Miller under a legal principle known as aiding and abetting. A person may be guilty of a crime although he personally does not do any of the acts necessary to constitute that crime. A person who aids and abets another to commit a crime is guilty of that crime.

Normally, a person is not guilty of a crime merely because he is present at the scene, even though he may silently approve of the crime or secretly intend to assist in its commission. To be guilty he must aid or actively encourage the person committing the crime, or in some way communicate to this person his intention to assist in its commission.

However, in the case of State v. Beach, 283 N.C. 261, 267-268 (1973), the North Carolina Supreme Court stated there is an exception to the rule that mere presence does not make one an accessory: "'...when the bystander is a friend of the perpetrator, and knows that his presence will be regarded by the perpetrator as an encouragement and protection, presence alone may be regarded as an encouragement, and in contemplation of the law this was aiding and abetting.'" See State v. Walden, 306 N.C. 466 (1982).
Therefore, Gill's case was submitted to the grand jury based upon information obtained by law enforcement. The information available to law enforcement incriminating Gill was in essence that Gill knew his friend Hayden wanted to kill Bill Miller; Gill was with Hayden when Hayden and Vickie Babbit had lured Bill Miller to a secluded location; and then Hayden murdered Bill Miller. Gill attempted to create an alibi for himself at the time of the murder. Gill's presence was based on his prior friendship with Hayden.
Upon receipt of all the reports from law enforcement, the statements of Rodger Gill, upon further review of the interview of Rodger Gill, and meeting with the officers, potential problems from a prosecution perspective were noted. Gill was interviewed by investigators on two separate occasions. The first interview of August 29-30, 2008, lasted approximately nine hours including the time in which Gill was provided dinner. However, only approximately three hours of the interview were recorded. Law enforcement reported due to a tape running out without the law enforcement officer's knowledge, the remainder of the interview was not recorded.

During those three hours, Gill repeatedly and vehemently denied being present at the time of the murder. At no time during the recorded interview on the first day, did Gill admit to being present at the time of the murder. According to the investigators, Gill made those admissions later in the interview after the recorder stopped recording.

The entire conversation was recorded the second day. This interview occurred on August 30, 2008. During that conversation Gill was asked to repeat what he told investigators about being present during the murder. Gill was hesitant at first and only made statements about being present after being prompted to tell it as if he were producing a movie. At that time Gill provided a detailed description of what took place during the actual murder. At no time did Gill admit to committing any of the acts that led to the murder. Moreover, even in the "movie version" Gill had no idea how he got to the secluded place where the murder occurred.

On September 18, 2008, weeks after the second interview was completed, Gill told investigators that he was not present when the murder was committed. Gill claimed that what he told them in the "movie version" is what he thought may have happened.

After indictment, Gill, by and through his attorney, provided to the prosecution extensive medical records detailing significant mental and physical issues the defendant was suffering in August of 2008 when he was interviewed. Gill's attorney has filed a motion with the Court claiming because of these mental and physical issues and the nature of the interrogation, Gill's statements to law enforcement were not reliable, not voluntary and therefore, not admissible.

These mental and physical issues, along with the gap in the recording, the fact that the defendant repeatedly denied being present during the murder on part of the recording, the fact that the defendant couched his statement of the things the witnesses in terms of a "movie version," the amount of time that has passed since the murder, and the fact that the person who actually fired the rifle killing Bill Miller has been successfully prosecuted, have led our office to dismiss the charges against Gill.

As to Vickie Babbit, there is insufficient evidence at this time to prove a case of first degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder of Miller. The State's theory was that she conspired with George Hayden to lure Bill Miller to a secluded location where George Hayden shot Bill Miller to death. The information provided by Rodger Gill in his statements to investigators in August of 2008 bolstered the cases against Vickie Babbit. However, Gill recanted his statements.

In the trial of George Hayden in May 2010, at the end of State's evidence the Court dismissed the charge of conspiracy to commit murder against Hayden. The vast majority of the incriminating evidence available against Vickie Babbit was presented during Hayden's trial. Although the Court allowed the State to proceed with first degree murder, the state was not allowed to proceed with the conspiracy involving Vickie based upon insufficient evidence. At the conclusion of the State's evidence, the trial judge determined that there was insufficient evidence to support the conspiracy charge and dismissed that charge. This ruling obviously is detrimental to the State's theory that Vickie conspired with Hayden to murder Miller.

In view of the fact that Gill has recanted his statement and the fact that a superior court judge has determined that there was insufficient evidence to support the charge of a conspiracy between George Hayden and Vickie Babbit, the State is dismissing the charges against Vickie Babbit.

This office is very appreciative of the hard work of the Onslow County Sheriff's Office, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and the State Bureau of Investigation in helping bring George Hayden to justice. Countless hours were spent by the District Attorney's Office attempting to locate witnesses from 38 years ago and this office is very appreciative for those agents, deputies, and other witnesses who testified in the trial of George Hayden. I have prosecuted over 110 murder defendants and clearly this was one of the most challenging cases I have ever tried. This office will continue to remain in contact with the Attorney General in reference to the appeal of George Hayden's conviction.

Mr. Maultsby and I have had contact with the family of Bill Miller concerning the evidentiary issues we have with any prosecution of Vickie Babbit or Rodger Gill. We have spoken with Sharon Aguilar, sister of the victim; David Miller, brother of the victim; Bonnie Russell, sister of the victim; Wendy Jo McGee, daughter of the victim; and Tamara Hull, daughter of the victim. The family members contacted reside in five states around the nation. Contact by me with the family was as late as the afternoon of December 22, 2010. The family, although disappointed in the cases involving Vickie Babbit and Rodger Gill, have expressed gratitude to this office for trying George Hayden 38 years after the murder of Bill Miller.

This is a difficult decision but Mr. Maultsby and I have spent countless months preparing this case, reviewing the evidence and trying Hayden. As prosecutors, decisions about cases are evidence driven and based upon what can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Based upon our review of the evidence, there is insufficient evidence to proceed against Vickie Babbit and Rodger Gill at this time and therefore, charges against both defendants are dismissed.

Ernie Lee
District Attorney Elect

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