Jurors deliberating on 2020 Butte Falls murder case
On Wednesday, jurors began considering the fate of the two men accused of murdering Cody Joseph Baize, 28, near Butte Falls, in January 2020.
Defendants Joshua Wayne Bull, 34, and Theodore Stacey Johnson, 35, are charged with second-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, first-degree robbery and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Before jurors began deliberating they heard closing statements from prosecutors and defense lawyers.
The defendants were tried at the same time and each man had his own attorney. The case was presented to the jury over several days in Jackson County Circuit Court.
Baize was found dead off Cobleigh Road near Butte Falls Highway by a man who was on his way to hunt for elk the morning of Jan. 10, 2020. Investigators said Baize had been pistol-whipped, shot and run over by his own vehicle, which the suspects took before abandoning it in Central Point.
Baize was living in Grants Pass but came from Kentucky and was a member of the Osage tribe, said Abigail Wilder, who said she had known Baize since he was a teenager and considered him a member of her extended family.
Baize “moved to Oregon to be more comfortable with himself” and find people who would “be more accepting of his sexual identity,” said Patrick Green, a Jackson County deputy district attorney.
The prosecution told the jury that eyewitness testimony provided by Aleka Dallman, Bull’s girlfriend, was consistent and her information well-corroborated.
Dallman was described by Green as being “not a perfect witness, but an important one.” She was given immunity for her cooperation, the prosecution said, and led police to find evidence of the crime in a variety of locations.
Dallman has speculated Baize was killed because he took back his car after loaning it to Bull, who hadn’t returned it. Johnson and Bull had filled the car with about $6,000 worth of drugs that were to be transported to California for sale.
Baize stated in a text that he had feelings for — and felt used by — Bull. He’d bought Bull things, such as a gun and had sex with him, according to texts by Baize to another party.
“Oh, my God,” Baize texted. “I’m such a fool.”
Bull and Johnson were angry that Baize had taken back his own car because they had their own plans for using it. They were also concerned Baize would go to police.
“This was a murder,” Green said to the jury.
He asked the jurors to try to put themselves in the place of Baize, who was taken from a location in Grants Pass after Bull texted him to bring the car in 10 minutes, then taken to another site near Butte Falls and ultimately murdered.
“What must Cody have been thinking, feeling? Betrayal …” Green said.
“If you’re not going to murder him, why drive him from here to way out here?” Green asked while pointing to a map projected onto the wall in the courtroom. It was also why the defendants “ditched all of the phones.”
The defendants had a “conscious objective” to have killed Baize, Green stressed.
Bull testified in his own defense and said he was forced to go along with Johnson. Christine Herbert, Bull’s attorney, asked during her closing statement, “What could possibly be (Bull’s) motive to kill his friend?”
Herbert then said Johnson wanted to kill Baize because he “ripped off” the drugs.
Herbert also contends that texts from Bull to Baize weren’t threats and that Dallman lied “to save herself.” Green said earlier that a text from Bull to Baize demanding he bring the car back in “10 minutes or else” was a threat to the victim.
Johnson opted to not take the stand. Jurors have been instructed to keep in mind that not taking the stand was Johnson’s right under the law.
His defense lawyer, Zachary Light, reiterated that instruction. Light said Johnson’s goal was to make money, and because he was wearing a mask murder wasn’t his client’s intention.
He pointed out Bull and Dallman weren’t concealing their identities.
Light also asked the jurors to not let Johnson’s appearance and “how he presents himself” lead them to assume he was the killer without also having evidence to back that up.
He said the murder seemed to have been unplanned, partly based on Dallman’s testimony that there was one shot heard, a pause, then the other shots, for example.
“Mr. Johnson had no interest in killing somebody,” Light said. “Why kill someone and blow the deal?”
Light also reminded jurors that Dallman mouthed the words “I love you” while he was cross-examining her.
“What do we do with things like that?” he asked.
He said it indicates that Bull and Dalllman consider Johnson “the perfect person to blame this on.”
Reach reporter Terri Harber at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-776-4468.