On the morning of December 11, 2007, Jason Payne called 911 and reported that his wife, 35-year-old Nichole Payne, and his stepson, 16-year-old Austin Taylor Wages, had both been shot. Responding officers discovered the bodies of the mother and son, both with a gunshot wound to the head, and the scene pointing to a murder-suicide.
However, in 2008, almost 10 months after their deaths, Jason Payne was arrested and charged with double homicide. Authorities said at the time of the arrest that the case relied on forensic work, such as the discovery that the gun had been wiped of fingerprints, which Wages couldn’t have done after his death, KLTV reported. Wood County investigators also told the outlet that Payne had taken out a $100,000 life insurance policy on his wife before her death.
The lead investigator said the crime scene initially looked like Nichole Payne’s son Wages had killed his mother and then turned the gun on himself but authorities soon found evidence that led them to arrest and charge Jason Payne with the double homicide. “Just your usual regular, young guy, high school kid, good grades, well liked, to within a span of minutes, killing his mother and killing himself, that doesn’t fit,” investigator Miles Tucker told KLTV.
“It was determined through the evidence that, that was not what happened, Jason Payne had killed his wife and made it look like his stepson had killed her and then killed himself,” Tucker told the outlet. Payne was found guilty and sentenced to life without parole in 2010 but then saw his conviction get overturned in 2013, sending the accused back to court for a second trial.
Where is Jason Payne today?
Payne Was Found Guilty of the Double Homicide in His 2nd Trial & Sentenced to Life in Prison Without Parole
Jason Payne’s second trial also led to a guilty verdict from the jury and he was sentenced to life in prison without parole once more in 2016. Payne, now 51, is currently serving his life sentence for capital murder at the Mark W. Stiles Unit near Beaumont, Texas, public records show. The facility is a men’s prison with a capacity for nearly 3,000 inmates that was established in 1993.
Payne filed for an appeal, which the Texas Court of Appeals denied in 2017. In his appeal, his attorneys argued that the evidence was insufficient to sustain a conviction and that a recording of a conversation between him and his mother while he was in jail should not have been admitted into evidence.
However, the court of appeals overruled Payne’s points of error and “affirm[ed] the trial court’s judgment.” It is unclear at this time if his attorneys will pursue other avenues to fight Payne’s conviction.
Payne’s Conviction Was Overturned in 2013 & He Was Again Found Guilty of the Double Homicide in 2016
According to the Monitor, Payne’s conviction was overturned in 2013 and a new trial was ordered in Wood County. Prosecutors in both cases did not seek the death penalty so a guilty verdict meant he received a sentence of life in prison without parole after his conviction in 2010. The Court of Criminal Appeals overturned the verdict but the new trial led to the same conviction.
After his first conviction was overturned, Tucker said the decision wasn’t based on a lack of evidence but only that some pieces of evidence shouldn’t have been allowed. “They didn’t rule on the fact that there was a lack of evidence or that it was a bad case, just that pieces were that may not, should not, have been allowed in,” he told KLTV.