A week after a 16-year-old boy was charged with murdering a Louisa County man and seriously wounding his wife behind their home, family members struggled to come to terms with what happened.
“It’s been devastating,” said Charlotte Eaton, the sister of Roger Payne, 83, who was shot on the railroad tracks behind his South Spotswood Trail home. “I still keep thinking this dream’s going to end. And such a young kid—how did he have the nerve to do it?”
Payne was found dead at the scene of the attack shortly after his wife, Nancy, called 911 from a neighbor’s house at 1:40 p.m. on Nov. 12. He had been shot in the face and Nancy, in the neck. The assailant had used a sawed-off shotgun, according to Rusty McGuire, Louisa County Commonwealth’s Attorney.
Eaton said Nancy Payne, 73, was doing “okay” at the hospital after surgery and is undergoing speech therapy.
The suspect, who lived across the road from the Paynes, appeared by video link from jail in Louisa Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court on Nov. 13 to face charges of first-degree murder, aggravated malicious wounding, robbery and breaking and entering to commit robbery.
Nancy Payne may have escaped the same fate as her husband by pretending to be dead, McGuire said during the court hearing, and by using her hands to block the shots.
Before he led Payne and his wife behind their house and shot them on the tracks, the juvenile removed all the telephones from the residence, McGuire said.
The juvenile had been to the house at least twice before, the prosecutor said. During one visit, the youth claimed his girlfriend had been abducted. He came to the house once on Nov. 12, left and returned “dressed differently.”
After shooting the Paynes, the youth stole their car and drove toward Lynchburg to visit his girlfriend, McGuire said. He was stopped on Route 29 in Nelson County later in the afternoon by Virginia State Police.
When authorities questioned the juvenile, he initially said the incident had been an accident, but then confessed, McGuire said.
The boy had been under the supervision of the Orange County Court Services Unit since Sept. 12 after being charged with misdemeanor larceny. It’s unclear how long he had lived in Louisa County.
Andre Dickerson, the boy’s father, attended the court hearing.
The morning before the shooting was not unlike any other one, he said. He got up to get ready for work and woke up his sons on his way out the door.
“I woke them up, said ‘I love you’ and went on to work,” he said. “He got up, said ‘I love you, too.’ There was nothing unusual about it.
“The [Paynes] were nice. They waved at us every time they saw us,” he said. “I can’t understand how this happened. I just want to say I’m so sorry to the family.”
Dickerson claimed he had sought mental health services for his son.
“I could tell that something was wrong with the way he was talking,” he said. “I called and I said, ‘Something is not right,’” he said. “The probation people never even called me back. That could have prevented all of this.”
Court services staff could not be reached for comment.
Roger and Nancy Payne had lived in the house on South Spotswood Trail for about 10 years. They had moved there to be near her children after he retired from his work as a produce manager at a Culpeper grocery store, according to Eaton.
Roger Payne “loved people and liked to talk with anybody,” Eaton said about her brother.
“They were extremely devoted to each other,” she said of Roger and Nancy.
Burial services for Roger Payne have been delayed while the state medical examiner’s office completes an autopsy.
A preliminary hearing for the juvenile is scheduled for Nov. 26 in Louisa Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.