Payne sentenced to 75 years
Circuit Court Judge Gina Groh denied motions for a new trial for Jason Payne, 26, who faced sentencing Monday morning for the second-degree murder of Keese Bare in 2004 and multiple counts of breaking and entering in 2007.
Payne was convicted of those crimes by two separate Morgan County juries in April and May of this year.
Defense Attorney Craig Manford and Prosecuting Attorney Debra McLaughlin had agreed last month to have Judge Groh sentence Payne for all his crimes at once.
Following emotional statements from Bare's parents and brother, Judge Groh sentenced Payne to 75 years in the state penitentiary, the maximum combined sentence for Payne's crimes. Court officials said Payne would be eligible for parole after 14 years.
Judge Groh issued Payne's sentence by each offense. He must serve 45 years for second-degree murder, 1-to-10 years for the first count of breaking and entering, 2-to-10 years for the second count of breaking and entering, 1-to-10 years for grand larceny and a year in Eastern Regional Jail for destruction of property.
All of his sentences will be served back-to-back. Judge Groh also ordered Payne to undergo substance abuse treatment while he is at the state penitentiary.
Payne's sentence was lengthened by his previous convictions for violent crimes, including an aggravated assault in 2000, wanton endangerment in 2001 and second-degree assault in 2006 in Maryland.
Payne was serving out a Maryland jail sentence when he was returned to West Virginia to face the burglary and murder charges last year. He was given credit for time served since then.
New trial denied
Defense Attorney Manford asked the judge to grant a new murder trial for Payne, saying the jury had not received the proper instructions on the definition of second-degree murder, and what made someone an accomplice or an accessory to murder.
Manford said the jury asked for clarifications of their instructions around 1 a.m. on May 3, during verdict deliberations.
Manford argued that the court should have forced the jury to break and return for further deliberations on the following Monday instead of letting them continue. That would have allowed attorneys to research the jury's questions further, he said.
They wanted to keep deliberating, as is the history of Morgan County juries, Manford said.
We can't second-guess the jury, Prosecuting Attorney McLaughlin said in response to Manford's motion.
Judge Groh denied Manford's motion, saying that both attorneys agreed upon the instructions to the jury during deliberation, and those directions were sufficient.
The judge also said evidence presented at Payne's trials for murder and burglary was enough for the jury to find him guilty in both cases.
Payne maintains innocence
Manford began the sentencing process by telling the court they would not hear Jason Payne admit to the murder of Keese Bare, since his client continued to maintain his innocence.
Addressing Keese Bare's family members assembled in the courtroom for the sentencing, Payne said, I can't stand up here and say I killed him. I know you want revenge. I would, too, if it were my brother. I wish I could give some kind of explanation, but I can't.
Payne then admitted he should have come forward earlier about the September 2004 murder of Bare at a campsite along the Potomac River.
I could have brought closure earlier to the family, he said.
Payne then told Judge Groh that Bare's murder had been a struggle for him to deal with, and that he had tried to commit suicide over it. He said he was too embarrassed to have his family in court with him.
I might have been in trouble before, but I'm not a killer, he told the judge.
Victim's family speaks
Keese Bare's mother, Carol Beasley, said the murder of her son and the burning of his body at the Potomac River campsite was the act of a monster.
I'll never be able to go to his grave to say goodbye, she said.
He gave no mercy to my son, so please don't show him any mercy, Beasley said.
Robin Bare read from a letter from Bare's father.
Keese was no angel, but he didn't deserved to be killed in a way that was so horrific and inhumane, she read.
You have robbed so many people of someone they loved, the letter said.
Keep him out of society for as long as possible, she told Judge Groh.
Bare's brother, Shane Beasley, also spoke before the court, echoing his family's grief that Bare's children would not know their father.
These men need to be punished to the fullest extent of the law, Beasley said.
Jerome B.J. Smith and Vernon L. Kerns are both scheduled to go on trial for their roles in Bare's 2004 murder.
Prosecutor McLaughlin echoed Bare's family's sentiments, calling for the judge to impose the maximum sentence.
Jason Payne has not shown he can be rehabilitated. Jason Payne has not shown any remorse, she said.
Judge Groh said Payne's criminal history and the court's interest in protecting the surrounding communities motivated her sentencing.
She said earlier incarcerations had not deterred him from committing further crimes. Judge Groh also noted that Payne still had not admitted to his responsibility in Bare's death.