Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Child-killing dad must begin serving child abuse term; also faces execution

Christopher Matthew Payne, sentenced in March to die for the premeditated murder of two of his children, must begin serving 51 years in prison.

That includes two consecutive terms of 23 years on child abuse and other charges in the deaths of Ariana and Tyler Payne.

Payne, 30, is appealing his death sentences. His prison term is concurrent with the death sentences, the judge ruled, so it will begin while his murder convictions are under appeal.

Pima County prosecutor Susan Eazer asked Superior Court Judge Richard S. Fields on Thursday to give Payne aggravated sentences on three felony child abuse charges and two charges of concealing and abandoning a body.

Fields gave Payne 23 years, one year less than the maximum, on the child abuse charges.

The judge cited the “especially heinous, depraved and cruel” manner in which Ariana and Tyler were murdered, that there were two victims and that both were under age 15.

Fields said the mitigating factors cited in a presentence report – current family support from his father and stepmother, and no earlier felonies – do not outweigh the depravity of the crimes.

Payne must also serve “substantially aggravated” sentences of 2.5 years each on two counts of abandoning and concealing a body. That time will be served consecutively.

Payne was given credit for 791 days served in the Pima County Jail while awaiting trial and sentencing.

His attorney John O’Brien said at the sentencing hearing Thursday that Payne should not face prison time on child abuse charges. He said Payne has already been sentenced “on conduct contained in the charges of child abuse.”

They include the 12 broken ribs Ariana, 4, sustained; his failure to feed her and Tyler, 5; and his failure to to get the children medical care when he saw they were dying, according to court testimony.

Payne locked them in a closet and starved them, then put their bodies in a plastic tub in a storage locker. Tyler’s body was never found.

Their mother, Payne’s ex-wife Jamie Hallam, asked the court to sentence Payne to consecutive terms on the child abuse charges.

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