The Richmond Register

December 16, 2010

Suspect calls two shooting deaths accidental

By Bill Robinson
Senior News Writer

RICHMOND — When he was interviewed by Richmond Police about the deaths of his mother and girlfriend, suspect John E. Payne, 35, claimed he shot both of them accidentally.

The bodies were found in different parts of the 506 Hillsdale Ave. home that the victims shared with Payne, RPD Det. Keith Daniel testified Wednesday in Madison District Court.

After hearing testimony from Keith, who was questioned during the preliminary hearing by Payne’s public-advocate attorney Mena Mohanty, Judge Brandy O. Brown found probable cause to send Payne’s case to a grand jury.

Payne was charged with two counts of murder-domestic violence after the bodies of his mother, Cornellia Mullins, 55, and his girlfriend, Meredith King, 32, were found Saturday, Dec. 4.

Payne initially was taken that day at the Days Inn in Berea after Berea Police were dispatched to investigate an anonymous report that a non-compliant sex offender had booked a room there, Daniel said. Payne was required to register as a sex offender because he was previously convicted of third-degree rape of a 15-year-old, according to the Kentucky Sex Offender Registry.

When Payne met the Berea officers at his motel room door, he immediately told them he had shot Mullins and King, the detective said.

The Berea officers then notified Richmond police, who sent a patrol officer to conduct a welfare check at the Hillsdale Avenue home. Berea police also transported Payne to Richmond police headquarters.

When the officers dispatched to Hillsdale Avenue got no response from anyone inside, they summoned the Richmond Fire Department, which broke open the home’s lock door, Daniel said.

Once at RPD headquarters, police recorded an interview with Payne in which he confessed to shooting Mullins and Payne, Daniel said. After shooting the women, Payne said he took Mullins’ car and drove to the Berea motel.

The car was found in the Days Inn parking lot with two hand guns and a lockbox inside, the detective said.

An autopsy by the state medical examiner’s office determined the two women both died of gunshot wounds. Richmond police are awaiting the results of forensic tests being conducted on the weapons found in the car, Daniel said under questioning by County Attorney Marc Robbins.

When Mohanty asked Daniel if the defendant had stated why he had shot the women, the detective said Payne told him the shootings were accidental.

“Did you ask him how it was an accident?” Mohanty asked Daniel, who replied, “I simply asked him what happened.”

When asked if evidence at the scene would support Payne’s contention that the shootings were accidental, Daniel said he had not visited the crime scene and did not have the crime-scene investigators’ report before him as he testified.

During the hearing, Payne sat impassively, half sideways and partially slumped over in a chair at the defense table. He stared at the wood paneling in front of the clerks’ stand for most of the hearing and then shifted his eyes toward the floor.

After the hearing, he was returned to the Madison County Detention Center, where he remained Wednesday evening on a $500,000 cash bond.

Robbins said the state had presented no additional evidence because a preliminary hearing is conducted only to establish whether probable cause exists for a grand jury to hear the case and not to establish guilt or innocence.

Bill Robinson can be reached at brobinson@ richmondregister.com or at 624-6622.