By Betsy Finklea
39 seconds. That’s the time it took for two men to rob and end the life of J.W. Bailey, a well-known store owner and firefighter.
Twenty-two year old Joshua Manning was tried this week at the Dillon County Judicial Center for the incident, which occurred on December 12, 2019.
The jury deliberated for about three hours before reaching a verdict. Manning was found guilty of murder, armed robbery, possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime, criminal conspiracy, and petit larceny.
During the sentencing, J.W. Bailey’s wife, Jean, expressed her appreciation to everyone at the court for their kindness. His granddaughter, Lauren Bailey Small, said she felt like her granddaddy could “rest in peace now.”
Assistant Solicitor Shipp Daniel said, “This incident shattered lives and not just the Baileys, but a couple of other families’ as well. I thank the jury for seeing things as we did.” Daniel knew it would be an uphill battle due to the lack of physical evidence, but said the jury believed the co-defendant, William Mason. Daniel said William Mason would still be serving significant time in prison, but he took ownership of what he did and because of that he would get a little leniency.
“The jury today made sure Joshua Manning was going to take ownership,” said Daniel.
“I knew Mr. J.W.,” said Daniel who had to pause as he fought back tears. He said it is always tough trying to get justice in these kinds of cases, but when you know them, it makes it a little tougher. “I am so thankful that we were able to get this family some justice today,” Daniel said.
Defense Attorney Linward Edwards asked if the Manning family could also speak. Wanda Manning thanked the court. “Your father didn’t have to die,” she told the Bailey family and said she prayed for them.
Edwards noted that this was the first time his client had ever been charged in a crime. He said Manning had moved to Charlotte, NC, with his parents, but moved back because of friends. He said this is a decision he probably regrets now. He reminded the judge that Manning was just 22-years-old and asked the judge to show him some mercy. Manning chose not to speak.
Daniel asked the court to sentence Manning to nothing less than life. He said it matters when someone owns up to what they have done and cooperates, and it matters when they don’t. Daniel said he believed life was the appropriate sentence.
Edwards said he thought it would be a travesty to allow the co-defendant to get less than 30 years and for Manning to get life in prison. Edwards said he didn’t think Manning should be punished for exercising his constitutional right.
Judge Michael Holt said it was obviously heartbreaking that Mr. Bailey lost his life in such a terrible way. He operated a business for over 40 years. Judge Holt told Manning that he was young and didn’t know what it was like to struggle along the way. He called Bailey’s death needless at a point in life when he hoped Bailey was enjoying the fruits of his labor and enjoying his children and grandchildren.
Judge Holt said it was sad that a 22-year-old young man put himself in this position. He told Manning that Edwards had done an outstanding job representing him. He recognized the impact on Manning’s family telling him that though he was a man he was “still their baby.” He said this family is crushed also. “They didn’t ask for this…nobody did,” said Judge Holt. He told Manning that it was so senseless. Judge Holt then handed down his sentence. Manning was sentenced to five years for criminal conspiracy, 30 days for the petit larceny, five years for possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime, 30 years for the armed robbery, and life imprisonment for the murder.
The case began with jury selection on Monday. On Tuesday, the trial started.
Assistant Solicitor Daniel gave his opening statement. Daniel said this was “a case about some cash and some cigars.”
“That’s what the defendant, Joshua Manning and William Mason wanted when they went into J.W. Bailey’s store, robbed him, and took his life.”
J.W. Bailey was a 77-year-old husband, father, and grandfather, said Daniel, and he was left to die alone on the floor of the convenience store that he had operated for approximately 46 years. “We’re here to seek justice for J.W. Bailey,” Daniel said.
Daniel explained to the jury what they would see in the case which included the surveillance video that shows the robbery and murder. He said there would be no fingerprints or DNA, which he said is more common than not, regardless of what people see on television shows. Daniel said the jury would hear from William Mason, the other person charged. Several days after the murder Mason was arrested and confessed to the crimes. He said they would also hear from some other people with information related to the case. Daniel said it was a straightforward case and that all of the evidence would leave the jury “firmly convinced of the defendant’s guilt.”
Attorney Edwards, who represented Manning, said Joshua claims his innocence and demands his right to a jury trial. He said that the state has told the jury the type of case that they do not have—no fingerprints or DNA.
Edwards said everyone has sympathy for the defendant, but this trial was “not about emotion or sympathy.” He said this trial is about whether the state can meet the burden of proof and prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Edwards said the State cannot prove their case with sympathy and emotion, but must do so with evidence. He said he would not be confronting law enforcement and all who worked diligently on the case. He would be confronting, however, William “Taco” Mason, and the evidence would show that Mason was there. There were no fingerprints or DNA that leads to Joshua Manning. He said the video will show William Mason, the star witness, not Joshua Manning. He reminded the jury that the state had the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
Edwards asked the jury to look at Manning, a young 22-year-old man, and said he is presumed innocent unless proven guilty and has on the robe of innocence. This robe cannot removed “with sympathy and emotion.” He thanked the jury for their service and said without their service the system of justice cannot function.
After Edwards’ opening statement, the state began their case. The first witness called was Cliff Arnette, the former captain of investigations for the Dillon County Sheriff’s Office.
Arnette said when he arrived at the scene law enforcement and EMS was already there, and he was briefed on what was going on. Arnette did not go in the store, but he knew they had a murder investigation.
Arnette said SLED Crime Scene was requested by the Sheriff’s Office to process the scene. The SLED bloodhound tracking team was also called out. There was a surveillance system, but the video could not be immediately accessed because it was an older system.
The tracking team was called because an individual saw two males running down Highway 301 away from the store. They felt these individuals were involved and requested the team to see if they could track them.
The tracking team did not locate people, but they did find evidence, Arnette said. They found two one dollar bills and a holster for a gun.
Due to some information that was obtained, a search for the murder weapon took place at a bridge on Highway 301 in Latta with the DNR (Department of Natural Resources) dive team, but nothing was found.
The video surveillance was then introduced. The video had four views, but only three views show footage from the incident.
The first angle shows the canopy over the front part of the store. It shows two individuals entering the store and then exiting the store after the incident. They had masks on, and at least one had on gloves, explaining the lack of fingerprints and DNA evidence. The time stamp shows that they were in the store approximately 39 seconds.
The next view shows inside the store. There is an individual (Bailey) behind the counter with his feet propped up. The two individuals enter the store with their guns up and pointed at J.W. Bailey. They approach quickly. One could see that he knew what was happening by his movements. There is flashing; this is when J.W. Bailey is being shot. The third view shows the same thing at a different angle. The video had no audio. The room was silent as the video played.
The man in the camouflage jacket was identified as William “Taco” Mason, Arnette said. Law enforcement signed arrest warrants. Mason turned himself in and gave a voluntary statement to law enforcement. While being questioned by Dillon Police Department about another case, Mason asked to speak with someone from the Sheriff’s Office about J.W. Bailey.
The name that William Mason gave as the other person involved in the incident was Joshua Manning.
At the time of the incident, Manning was living in the nearby mobile home park on Walker Court.
Manning’s name was out as a suspect in the case. The family filed a missing person report for Manning with the City of Dillon Police Department.
Manning was located in Florence County at a motel by the U.S. Marshals. The charges against Manning were based on the video and the statement of the co-defendant, Arnette explained. There were no fingerprints and no DNA. Arnette also noted in his testimony that Manning had gained nearly 80 pounds since his arrest which is why he may appear larger than the person in the video.
Edwards cross-examined Arnette seeking to point out that Manning could not be identified from the video and no fingerprints and no DNA could be linked to Manning. No murder weapon was recovered.
A SLED Crime Scene Investigation Lieutenant was the next to testify. He said four .9 mm bullet casings were found, and two .45 caliber casings were found. He said at least two guns had been fired.
Edwards’ cross-examination showed nothing was found that connected Manning to the incident.
Dr. Edward L. Proctor, Jr., the pathologist, testified over a web meeting. He performed the autopsy on J.W. Bailey. He testified that there were at least 10 bullet wounds mostly on the left side. Some of them were all the way through so it could not be determined exactly how many times he was shot.
Among the most serious injuries was a bullet that penetrated the heart and right lung. Another bullet penetrated the liver. Bailey died immediately, Proctor said.
Wlliam Mason, the co-defendant, was the next to take the stand. Mason has lived in Dillon since 2008. He went to school here, but dropped out in the 11th grade when he was arrested for breaking into a motor vehicle and burglary. He also had a criminal record that was brought out by the State in extensive questioning.
Mason said he was there to testify so that people could know the truth. Mason pointed out Joshua Manning as the person who committed the crime with him.
Mason said he had known Manning about a year before the incident and said Mason and Manning’s cousin’s cousin used to date. He said they smoked marijuana when they hung out.
On December 12, 2019, Mason said Joshua Manning called his phone and “wanted to chill.” This was around 5:00 – 6:00 p.m. He took it to mean that he wanted to hang out and smoke.
He walked to Manning’s home from where he was staying at Deerfield Apartments. Mason had a gun on him for protection.
Mason said they started smoking and talking. The conversation came up about robbing. They talked about robbing stores in Florence, but the car wouldn’t start. In Dillon, he only wanted to rob a drug dealer because he said they wouldn’t have to worry about the police. Mason said a drug dealer wouldn’t call the police because he sells drugs.
With the car not starting and no ride to get where they were going, it was decided to rob J.W. Bailey’s store because it was right there near the mobile home park where Manning was staying.
The two men went to another home on Mark Road in the same mobile home park to buy cigarettes. Mason said he walked up to the home and knocked on the door and asked the person if she still sold cigarettes. Manning was in the yard. She said she stopped selling them. They went back to Manning’s home and decided to go to J.W. Bailey’s store.
Mason had his gun, a .9 mm Glock, and Manning had a .45. They traded guns. He said Manning wanted the Glock, and Mason wanted the .45 because it had an extended clip with more shots. He said they had no intent to kill, only to rob.
Mason said he told Manning on the way there to “let’s make it clean and smooth” and don’t shoot anyone. Mason said they wanted the money.
Once they were there on the side of the building, they put on their face masks and stuff, Mason said. Mason, dressed in a camouflage jacket and black pants, went in first. Manning had on a black jacket and black pants. They walked in holding the guns up. Bailey was reaching for his gun on his right side. Mason said he tried to get the gun from Bailey and heard a shot go off. Mason said Manning reached around and started shooting. Mason said after Bailey was shot, Bailey fell on him. Mason moved out of the way, and they started grabbing stuff. Mason said they got money, J.W. Bailey’s gun in the holster, and Manning got some Black & Mild cigars. They left the store, jumped a fence, and went through the woods.
Eventually they got back to the house and started splitting the money, which amounted to about $400. Mason said he had taken Bailey’s pistol and sold it to Manning for $50. Manning’s aunt was supposed to take Mason home. He said he left his gun and other gun with Manning. “They were dirty,” and Mason said Manning was going to get rid of them. When asked by Daniel what he meant by dirty, Mason replied, “they had a body on it” (meaning they had been used to kill someone).
The aunt came to give Mason a ride home. She told them something was going on at J.W. Bailey’s and did he want to go down there and see what happened. Mason said no because he was on the run from parole. Manning also said no, and she took Mason home another way.
Mason said once home, he never talked to Manning again after this night.
Mason found out law enforcement wanted to talk to him when he saw himself on social media and turned himself in. Mason was charged with murder, armed robbery, petit larceny, and possession of a deadly weapon. All of these charges are still pending.
Mason talked to the city police about another case and asked to speak with a county investigator. He wanted to tell what happened with the robbery.
Daniel asked Mason if the same story he told them was the exact same story that he was telling now. Mason said yes. Daniel asked why he was doing it.
Mason said so he could get home. He said he hoped to get some help from the State and said that Daniel had told him that he would not know how much time he would get until after the trial.
Mason said he was there so people would know the truth and the victim’s family could get justice.
When asked by Daniel, Mason said he had met Bailey before and had known him a long time. He had been in the store many times. He agreed when asked that he had known Bailey to be a kind man.
During the cross-examination, Edwards questioned Mason about his past criminal record and suggested that some of his other associates may have been with Mason when the murder was committed, not Manning. Mason stood firm that Manning was the person with him.
Edwards also tried to show inconsistencies in Mason’s testimony and statement.
Mason said initially he didn’t think he fired his gun, but the paperwork showed that he did indeed fire his gun. Mason said the paperwork shows that it went off twice.
When asked by Edwards, Mason agreed that he came back to Dillon because he was a wanted fugitive. “They were going to get me regardless,” Mason said.
Mason again said he hoped to get a lesser sentence, maybe 20-25 years, but insisted that he was telling the truth and would not do just “anything” to get a lesser sentence.
Mason said it was Manning’s idea to wear masks. Mason said he wore gloves but Manning did not.
Mason said he spent his share of the money from the robbery on shoes and stuff.
On re-direct, Daniel asked Mason if he was an admitted criminal, and he agreed.
A passerby was the last to testify on Tuesday. He was in the area of the store when law enforcement and EMS was responding. He saw two black males come out of the woods. They were crossing the road in front of him, directly across the road from where Manning lived, and he stopped to let them go by. They were two black males with dark clothing, but he couldn’t identify them further.
The second day of the trial opened on Wednesday morning.
Daniel called the woman from the mobile home park that Mason thought sold cigarettes. She remembered Mason coming to the door that night. She said there was someone in the yard dressed in a black jumpsuit, but he was holding his head down, and she didn’t know who it was. On cross-examination by Edwards, she said she didn’t know Mason.
The last witness to testify was Keith Bailey, the son of J.W. Bailey. Keith Bailey, the City of Dillon Fire Chief and paramedic, was dispatched to the scene in reference to a shooting. He called the store with no answer, and he called his mother who said his father was at the store. His father normally wouldn’t have been there at that time, but the person who was supposed to work was at a church Christmas party.
K. Bailey said when he arrived that some Sheriff’s deputies tried to grab him and stop him from going in, but he dragged them in with him.
He said some responders were there working on his father, but in his line of work, he had been to enough shootings to know what was going on. “He was gone,” K. Bailey said. He said there was nothing they could do.
K. Bailey identified a holster that was found. K. Bailey said J.W. Bailey always had his .38 revolver on his right side. He had given him the gun and holster several years before. He said this was the holster he bought.
Edwards had no questions for Bailey.
The state rested.
Edwards asked for a directed verdict. He said there was no evidence against his client other than a statement from an undesirable witness. Daniel said there was plenty of evidence. Judge Holt denied the motion.
Edwards informed the court that his client had chosen not to testify. The judge reviewed Manning’s rights with him. No defense was presented, and the defense rested.
In his closing argument, Daniel reviewed with the jury how the state had met their burden of proof. He also explained the concept of the “hand of one is the hand of all.” Daniel explained the lack of fingerprints and DNA connected to Manning by pointing out that he didn’t touch anything that was left behind. He talked about Mason and said that he had told the truth on another case and that he was telling the truth in this case. Daniel said in his 15 years of prosecuting criminal cases there was always something that stayed with him from the case. In this case, it is the 39 seconds that it took for the two men to rob the store and kill J.W. Bailey and shatter the lives of three families, who are forever changed regardless of the outcome of the case. For 39 seconds, Daniel stood in silence. He then stated that Joshua Manning was guilty beyond all reasonable doubt.
In his closing argument, Edwards attempted to show where the state did not meet the burden of proof and show why there was reasonable doubt. He said the state must prove their case on facts and evidence and not by sympathy and remorse. Edwards went through specific reasons that he believed constituted reasonable doubt including the video, which he said does not show his client but someone else, the lack of hard evidence, and the co-defendant William “Taco” Mason and inconsistencies in his testimony.
The jury was charged and later in the day reached a verdict.