In 2007, Jason Payne and his wife Nichole, 35, were living together in Quitman, Texas, along with their two young children and Nichole’s teenage son from a previous relationship, Austin Taylor Wages. On the morning of December 11, 2007, Jason Payne called 911 and told the operators that his wife and stepson had been shot, court documents reveal.
Responding officers discovered Nichole Payne’s body in a bedroom downstairs. She was lying in bed and her body was warm to the touch, according to evidence presented at trial, with Lieutenant Miles Tucker of the Wood County Sheriff’s Office reporting that she “had massive damage to the back of her head.” Officers then found Wages’s body in the garage and they described he’d been shot in the face, “on the mouth, kind of to the side.”
Authorities determined that Payne and her 16-year-old son were both killed by a gunshot wound to the head, with the young mother’s manner of death officially listed as a homicide while her son’s was listed as undetermined, the evidence presented at trial showed.
Authorities Were Called to the Scene Which Initially Pointed to a Murder-Suicide
Payne is the one who called 911 and requested help for his wife and stepson who’d been shot and the initial signs at the scene showed that the two may have been killed in a murder-suicide. However, an emergency medical technician testified that Payne’s body was still warm when she arrived while Wages appeared to have been killed before his mother because his body was “cold and stiff” and he had lividity.
Jason Payne was interviewed by authorities on the afternoon of the two deaths and he told them that he was getting ready to take his two young children to school and that Wages was upset about not being allowed to own a cellphone, court documents show.
Payne said he waited with his two kids in the truck but Wages didn’t come out of the house so he left to drive his son to school. After dropping off his son, Jason Payne told authorities he returned to the house with his daughter and soon after, he said he found his wife’s body.
Payne also told investigators during that interview that Wages was a bit introverted but had a good relationship with his mother. He said he didn’t know if his stepson had committed suicide or not but when he was asked if he shot his wife and Wages, Payne replied, “You’ve got to be out of your mind to think that I would have anything to do with this. No, no, I had nothing to do with it,” court documents reveal.
The Investigation Continued & Authorities Looked Into Nichole Payne’s Husband as a Suspect in Their Deaths
It wasn’t until eight months after Nichole Payne and her son’s deaths that authorities arrested Jason Payne and charged him with their murders, saying they wanted to gather all the appropriate evidence, which included finding two large holes that looked like graves on the Paynes property, KLTV reported at the time of his arrest.
During Payne’s trial, the court heard that Payne spoke to his mother on the phone while he was in jail and asked her to destroy two tapes that she was storing for him in her nightstand, according to court documents.
While there was no doubt that Nichole Payne had been murdered, the debate at trial centered on whether Wages had been murdered as well or if he committed suicide, which would determine if the two individuals’ deaths were a double homicide or a murder-suicide.
However, based on the evidence presented, the jury determined that Payne was guilty of both murders, and according to a ruling by the Texas Court of Appeals, “the State’s experts’ testimony, combined with the evidence regarding Adam’s behavior just prior to the incident, led to the jury’s determination that Adam did not commit suicide. We must defer to the jury’s finding on this issue.”