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March 20, 2013

Payne gets two life and three 20-year sentences

Ineligible for parole for 25 years

RICHMOND —

John Payne, who pleaded guilty last month to murdering his mother and his girlfriend in 2010 will have to sit in prison for 25 years before he can be considered for parole.

The bodies of Cornelia Gayle Mullins, Payne’s mother, and Meredith King, his girlfriend, were discovered in early December 2010, days after they had been shot and killed in a Richmond home. He was arrested Dec. 4 that year at a Berea motel.

On Wednesday, Madison Circuit Judge Jean Chenault Logue accepted a plea deal Payne, 39, reached with prosecutors and sentenced him to two life terms without possibility of parole for 25 years.

The sentences will run concurrently, as will three 20-year sentence on charges of theft, escape and being a persistent felony offender.

One side of the courtroom was packed with relatives and friends of the victims, most of them wearing pink T-shirts with a photo of the two slain women.

Three relatives and one friend, as well as Payne, spoke before the judge imposed sentence.

Rather than face the judge to address the court, the four women who spoke, while fighting back tears, faced Payne as they spoke, often pointing fingers at him.

Michelle McCarthy, who said Mullins had been her best friend, told Payne he had blamed his mother for eveything that had gone wrong in his life, even his mother’s death.

Payne had promised his dying father he would look after his mother, but 10 months later he killed her, she said.

“Your mom and Meredith didn’t deserve what you did to them,” McCarthy said.

King’s daughter, Say’lene Denny, told Payne whenever the parole board considered his release, she would be there to oppose it.

He also would have to face God’s judgment someday, she said.

Stephanie Bays, King’s sister told Payne he had taken “the two people who loved you most out of this world,” and she hope he never saw the light of day outside of prision.

Sharlene Evans, King’s mother, said she believed those who cannot forgive will never enter heaven, and she told Payne she would forgive him because she didn’t want him to deprive her of a heavenly home.

As the four women had asked him to do, Payne said he accepted responsibility for the deaths, and apologized for the pain he had caused their friends and loved ones.

“I’m not asking for your forgiveness,” he said. “I pray that God will bless you.”

Logue said there was nothing she could add to the comments already made. Because prosecutors had reached the plea agreement in consultation with the victims’ relatives, the judge said she saw no reason not to accept it.

Outside the courthouse, as a cold, driving wind cause the draw chain to beat against the flag pole, friends and relatives of the victims released pink and purple balloons.

While no one can ever get over the murder of a loved one, Evans said, the sentencing did provide some measure of release, which was symbolized by the balloons.

Bill Robinson can be reached at editor@richmondregister.com or at 624-6690.

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