Colorado man, 95, denied bond in fatal shooting of assisted-living worker

Booking photo of Okey Payne, released to Reuters by the Boulder County Sheriff's Office, U.S., on February 5, 2021. Boulder County Sheriff's Office/Handout via REUTERS

(Reuters)


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DENVER (Reuters) - A 95-year-old Colorado man facing charges he fatally shot an assisted-living employee over $200 he suspected the victim of stealing from him was ordered held without bond on Friday at the initial court hearing in the case.

Okey Payne was brought by wheelchair into Boulder County District Court, where the judge advised him he would remain jailed for investigation of first-degree murder in Wednesday's shooting death of Ricardo Medina-Rojas, prosecutors said.

The nonagenarian defendant was arrested at the Legacy Assisted Living center in Lafayette, Colorado, 20 miles northwest of Denver, shortly after the shooting there. Payne was a resident of the facility and Medina-Rojas its maintenance director.

According to an arrest affidavit, Payne confronted Medina-Rojas when the victim arrived for work, demanding to know, "Where's my $200?" and then shot the maintenance chief in the head with a .45-caliber pistol.

While in custody, Payne confessed to the shooting, telling an officer who took his statement that he "blew Ricardo away," the affidavit said.

Although hard of hearing, Payne was lucid in his account of the shooting, and insisted that staff of the assisted-living center, in collaboration with his ex-wife, had been stealing from him since he arrived at Legacy in October 2019, the officer wrote in the affidavit.

Police said the claims of theft were unsubstantiated.

A housekeeper at the facility told investigators Payne particularly disliked Medina-Rojas and another maintenance worker. According to her account, the affidavit said, Payne had threatened to kill the two employees and suggested he had little to lose, telling her, "What are they going to do? Give me life?"

Payne is set to be formally charged on Feb. 10. The state public defender's office, assigned to represent him, does not publicly comment on its cases.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver; Editing by Steve Gorman and Daniel Wallis)

© Copyright Thomson Reuters 2021

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Keith Coffman

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