Lafayette, CO

Senior living killer, 95, still hasn’t been evaluated

David Heitz

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Okey PayneBoulder County Sheriff's Department

The 95-year-old resident who shot and killed a staff member at his Lafayette, Colo. assisted living facility last year still hasn’t been evaluated for competency.

“Court records show that on April 26, attorneys filed a motion requesting that (Okey) Payne’s competency be evaluated, and a judge ordered a mental health stay on the case until it can be determined if Payne is competent enough to assist in his own defense,” the Boulder Daily Camera reported. “If Payne is found incompetent to proceed, he will continue to be held at a facility until he can either be restored to competency or a judge rules it is unlikely he will ever be fit to stand trial.”

Payne said he thought the employee whom he killed had stolen money from him. He even claimed to have written down the serial numbers of his missing cash.

Payne thought the maintenance worker had teamed up with his ex-wife to defraud him. Investigations by the assisted living community and Adult Protective Services did not unveil any wrongdoing.

Many elderly people believe they are being ripped off when they enter a senior facility. Sometimes thefts do happen.

Stories of residents in old folks’ homes who have lost their independence and become angry are common. What’s not as common is their ability to keep a gun at an elderly living facility.

Firearms banned at assisted living center

Firearms are not allowed at Legacy Assisted Living. According to the affidavit, Legacy had taken two of Payne’s firearms, a beretta handgun and .22-caliber rifle, and stored them off-site. However, Payne had another firearm gifted to him by his father, a .45-caliber ACP from World War I. He had the firearm since World War I.

Payne did not specify in police or court records how he got the vintage firearm into Legacy.

According to the affidavit filed in Boulder County Court, Payne appeared lucid upon being interviewed after the shooting. He matter-of-factly told police he had set up employees who had been stealing from him, even writing down the serial numbers off his money.

He even seemed somewhat calm after the shooting, according to records.

Payne appeared clear-headed and was cooperative, police said. The near centenarian told police that assisted living center staff were trying to kill him. According to the affidavit, he says he “has woken up with needle marks in his big toe and he believes the staff are drugging him.”

He went on to say that the thefts have been going on since October 2019. “Okey said he was tired of having money stolen from him,” the affidavit states. “Okey told me he ‘blew Ricardo away.’ Okey told me it was too bad he had to ‘waste’ him (Ricardo) but he’s hoping if something good comes from all this is that the stealing will stop. Okey then walked back to his room and waited for the police.”

Payne waives Miranda rights at scene of crime

Payne is extremely hard of hearing, which calls into the question the legitimacy of some of the interviews.

The affidavit states Payne never asked to have a lawyer present while police interviewed him, but he did say he has a divorce lawyer. He said he believes his ex-wife also is trying to steal his money.

The affidavit states he acknowledged his Miranda rights and waived his rights. He then ate breakfast and asked if he could give a statement.

As long as Payne is deemed incompetent to proceed, his right to a speedy trial remains on hold. Officials have said COVID-19 restrictions have slowed down admissions from jails to the state mental hospital in Pueblo.

Once transferred to the state mental hospital, Payne will receive intensive care and be assessed for competency. If he is found incompetent, a second assessment could be scheduled for six months down the road. Or a judge may declare Payne never will be found competent.

More and more elderly people in America’s prisons

So, what happens to elderly people who go to prison? Can Payne at 95 or 96 assimilate into the younger population?

It’s unlikely. Elderly people increasingly are represented in America’s aging prison population. States are making various accommodations for them. According to Pew Charitable Trust, even when elderly people are released due to health reasons, murderers and child molesters usually are not.

“Studies have found that older ex-offenders are less likely than younger ones to commit additional crimes after their release,” Pew reports. “But politicians and the public don’t seem willing to release former murderers, rapists, and sex offenders, even though they are decades removed from their crimes and physically incapable of repeating them, said Liz Gaynes, president of the Osborne Association, a nonprofit that works on behalf of ex-offenders.

Not too old to kill

Payne proved he’s not too old to kill.

Most states allow the governor to grant clemency to someone who is evaluated by a doctor as having less than 90 days to live, according to Pew.

Some states, like Colorado, have hospice programs for dying prisoners. In fact, Colorado developed the nation’s first hospice program for prisoners.

The Canon City Daily Record reports, “Colorado’s total prison population more than doubled from 1991 to 2009, but the number of inmates aged 50 or older increased 720 percent, according to ‘Old Behind Bars,’ a 2012 study by Human Rights Watch.”

Okey Payne may be 95, but he still may have to wait a long time before he can, if ever, go to trial.

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I have been in the news business more than 30 years, spending much of my career at some of the best newspapers in the country. Today, I specialize in Denver local news, health reporting, social justice issues, addiction/recovery/mental health news, and topics surrounding homelessness and human trafficking.

Denver, CO
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