Even a speck of common sense tells us that the shortest way to get from one point to another always takes the path of a straight line. Following a meandering road that zigs left and zags right is surely less efficient than taking a direct route. We hold these truths to be self-evident.
Often, upon tackling a story, I’ll familiarize myself with the geographical location of the crime scene and get a flavor of the demographics that comprise the area of interest. It generally serves no purpose other than pacifying certain curiosities within myself and if, for some reason they prove to be interesting enough, I’ll include a portion of my findings as a prelude to the tale.
I found nothing particularly noteworthy in Paris, Illinois; the demographics seemed to reflect a quintessential little town in the Midwest with a population a little over 8,500. That was before I stumbled upon the description of Vance Park, “a hushed quiet place that’s perfect for meditation”. Vance Park is a sunken garden that hosts a serpentine wall and at the far end of this little oasis, a lion’s head fountain. I have to wonder if this tiny community realizes the stark symbolism between Vance Park’s settings and the real life events that culminated in murder, the rigidly straight wall of justice made serpentine by the pre-existing factors that led a once quiet and reserved young man;s actions to emulate a lion’s roar.
Let’s meet the accused, 16-year-old Terry Payton.
Terry has been arrested and is facing two counts of Murder 1 for the death of his mother, 53-year-old Kathie.
It’s really not a stretch to see how this arrest was made. After all, Terry turned himself in. He sent a text message to his buddy, Jakob Shumaker, that stated, “I killed el madre, need help making her disappear. I stabbed her steven times after mercilessly beating the shit out of her” and he posted, “I’m a monster” on his facebook wall.
I’m no cop but it doesn’t take too many police hours to take the puzzle pieces and put them together. Dead woman + murder weapon + confession = open and shut case. Or so it’d seem. But what makes this case extremely unusual is the fact this small community has rallied together and standing firmly behind this accused murderer..even raising money for a decent defense attorney for Terry’s representation.
But why? Why are so many seemingly rational human beings willing to turn a blind eye to what’s clearly against the law, something as heinous as first-degree murder, and support a boy on the doorstep of adulthood who admitted to stabbing his own mother, not once, but seven times? Clearly the community members are either “certifiable” or there’s something so powerful that’d make this many people plead with the judicial system to look past the aesthetics of a nice and tidy straight line of justice and suggest, instead, picking the zig-zagging serpentine structure that allows consideration into what led to the monstrous attack on a woman who’d raised him for 16 years.
Kathie Payton was allegedly a drunk. Not just an ordinary drunk but a ranting-raving-abusive-“I-wish-you-were-never-born”-pass-out-on-the-sidewalk type of drunk. You know, the kind everybody points to, whispers about, and pities. The kind of drunk that makes one thankful they’re not having to deal with the utter chaos and shit this lady brought upon herself. Every quintessential town needs a quintessential drunk.
But no child deserves the daily chore of having to be their parent’s keeper. No child needs to have to explain their parent’s irrational behaviors, and no child deserves a parent who repeatedly beats into their brain they’re worthless, a hindrance, and a waste of time. No “normal” child deserves to be physically and emotionally threatened. Not ever. And most “normal” children have the safety net of family and a system that’s set in place to guard children from this type of torture.
Terry Payton had none of these things afforded to him…his father and paternal grandparents were estranged and living in England (allegedly due to a nasty divorce and control issues from Kathie), Illinois’ Department of Child and Family Services added Terry as yet another fucking statistic in their failed “system”, and lastly, Terry Payton suffers from a form of autism (Asperger’s Syndrome) that may have left him alone, confused, and fed up to the point of snapping like a rubber-band.
There are witnesses coming out of the woodwork willing to help Terry…statements from individuals that have witnessed the abusive relationship Kathie had with her only son. We’re not talking about his peers who’re more likely to stand in his corner, there are professionals ranging from business to education who’ve stepped forward with tales of horror.
Where were they prior to Terry snapping? Why didn’t they step up to the plate and actually do something prior to this murder? Why do people wait until the “inevitable” happens to speak out?
Enter child protective services.
Calls were placed, reports filed, home visits executed.
If these agencies utilized a little common sense in lieu of doing the least amount possible, they may actually be able to help the children with whom they’re charged. For example: If there’s an allegation hotlined by someone mandated to report abuse (a school official), common sense would trigger some red flags if, when you arrived, you were turned away from the parent in question.
Common sense prevails when you have someone like Staci Garzolini-Skelton, a counselor at Paris Cooperative High School vs. a drunken lunatic who has the propensity to do nothing but save her own ass vs. a young autistic boy who’s scared shitless of his mother. Ms. Garzolini-Skelton phoned IL DCFS to report her conversation with Kathie Payton that included threats of severing Terry’s legs while he slept (my personal favorite) and slitting his throat if he stole her medicine. In two follow-ups by DCFS that were prompted by that phone call, Kathie flat-out refused to speak to them and Terry refused to acknowledge the alleged abuses.
I stated I was “no cop” and I’m stating I am “no counselor” but I have a shit-ton of common sense and a few years of spotlighting dumbfucks who fail at seeing the obvious. A dependent will rarely come forward with the truth, even with bloodied lips, blackened eyes, a broken soul, if they know they’re just going to be returned to the same abusive household and the cycle of abuse continued and often amplified. Don’t they teach this stuff in “I’m a State worker who can fuck your life” 101?
DCFS dropped the ball.
The autopsy allegedly showed Kathie Payton sustained seven stab wounds and head trauma. The toxicology report (at the time of publication) has either not been returned or not been released. It wasn’t until after the initial autopsy report that Terry explained bouncing her head off the floor a couple of times prior to stabbing her dead, something he’d left out in his original statement to the police.
While researching this story, I found myself reading hundreds of comments on a message board. Some were caught up with this little detail. Me? Not so much. I think it’s perfectly normal to forget what I consider “little details” like testing the hardness of one’s skull while reliving the larger details like taking a knife and jabbing it into human flesh a good seven times. It also leads me to the troubling nature of this piece. The charges.
If what has been documented is true, why would the State pursue First-Degree Murder? Perhaps it has to do with a “less than thorough” or “rigidly confined” investigation. It is alleged that the Illinois State Police investigator interviewed neighbors regarding the black/white issues only: Did they see or hear anything during the time Terry was to have stabbed his mother? The investigators asked nothing about any sort of background leading up to Terry snapping.
In Illinois, First-Degree murder, according to the Illinois Compiled Statutes (720 ILCS 5/9-1) is defined as:
(a) they kill an individual without lawful justification if, in performing the acts which cause the death:
(1) they either intend to kill or do great bodily harm to that individual or another, or know that such acts will cause death to that individual or another; or
(2) they know that such acts create a strong probability of death or great bodily harm to that individual or another; or
(3) they are committing, or attempting to commit, a forcible felony other than second degree murder.
Second-Degree Murder, according to the Illinois Compiled Statutes (720 ILCS 5/9-2) is defined as:
(1) At the time of the killing they are acting under a sudden and intense passion resulting from serious provocation by the individual killed or another whom the offender endeavors to kill, but he negligently or accidentally causes the death of the innocent individual; or
(2) At the time of the killing the believe the circumstances to be such that, if they existed, would justify or exonerate the killing under the principles stated in Article 7 of this Code, but their belief is unreasonable. Basically, Article 7 provides that a person is justified in the use of force against another when and to the extent that he reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or another against such other’s imminent use of unlawful force. However, he is justified in the use of force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm only if he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to themselves or another, or the commission of a forcible felony.
Some residents of Paris, Illinois are claiming he stabbed his mother out of self-defense although there hasn’t been any real information substantiating that claim. At least none released to the media. Terry Payton is to undergo a psychiatric evaluation to see if he’s “sane” and can stand trial. Based on the information I’ve seen, I’d be more apt to throw my support behind the Second-Degree Murder charge and ask for leniency in sentencing. Of course, if I were a defense attorney, I’d shoot for manslaughter…start with the lesser of charges and reach a plea-agreement somewhere shy of painting this kid who lived a life of torture out to be a cold-hearted killer.
There are a select few who’re speaking out against Terry Payton, his aunt, Jan Burno, is one.
While I understand the emotions behind losing a loved one, there’s a fine line between being despondent and just plain crazy as a shithouse rat. Watching the video of Ms. Burno has led me to be believe she leans more to the shithouse rat sector with tinges of despondency thrown in for viewing pleasure.
Ms. Burno has been stalking the message boards trying to convince people that her sister was a great mother to Terry, that she purchased thousands of dollars worth of clothing and video games for her son while he turned into a spoiled little brat, demanding more, claiming the video games and those community members rallying around him made him into the vicious knife-wielding freedom-crazed kid. Kathie and Terry relied on public funds to get them through life. Kathie was unable to hold a job, they were living in publicly funded housing. I doubt very seriously child support was used to purchase anything but booze. It never is. (or boob jobs and if Kathie was anything like her sister in the video, she didn’t need one of those)
There are so many contributing factors into what may have led Terry to take a knife and silence his mother. What is for certain is that Kathie Payton is indeed dead, she was indeed stabbed, and Terry admits to being the one who delivered the attack. By all accounts, just looking at the bare bones of the crime, one would agree that the charges of First-Degree Murder are proper. But as one begins to take into consideration the nature of Terry’s mental state due to the abuse and couple it with his Asperger’s Syndrome, I find it negligent the State has not decided to immediately offer a lesser charge. I said, “negligent”, not surprising.
I’m hoping the residents of Paris, Illinois will not forget that a life was taken and Terry should be held accountable for his actions. I hope these same residents will not continue to provoke Ms. Burno as she attends the hearings to represent her sister. (Believe me, people, I know how incredibly hard it is not to poke a psycho when you see one) Lastly, I hope the State’s Attorney’s office isn’t so near-sighted, thinking they have a quick seal on a case that is proving to be a long and twisted wall of history by adopting the philosophy that the shortest way to get from one point to another always takes the path of a straight line.