EDGAR CO –
This article is reprinted from the July Issue of Disclosure with permission from Angela Mason Howser.
Trial of youth accused of murdering mother moving toward jury trial.
In this undated photo submitted by family of a young Terry Payton and his mother Kathie, the smiles belie the truth: it was at about this age that Kathie, who appears older in the photo than someone in her 40s, was routinely locking her son out of the house at night, forcing him to sleep in the lawn next to their housing apartment, or to seek refuge with neighbors.
Another photo that sources say belie the truth behind the relationship between Terry Payton and his mother Kathie; while Terry had genuine affection for his mother, it was marred by fits of violence fueled by alcohol and prescription medication…and, some are saying, illicit drugs as well.
Terry Payton’s Facebook remains today as it was a year ago, with an unchanged photo and no accessibility for those who hadn’t already friended him. One of his final status updates, however, seen by those who were friends with him, read “I’m a monster!!” as regards the killing of his mother on June 23, 2011.
By Angela Mason Howser
EDGAR CO.—The jury trial of young Terry Payton, the 17-year-old who is accused of beating and stabbing his mother to death a year ago this summer, is set to move forward in September, barring any further continuances.
Payton had just turned 16 (May 15) when on the evening of June 23, 2011, he walked to the investigation division of theParispolice department and advised officers on duty there that “I think I killed my mom.”
What’s gone on in and around EdgarCountysince that time has been the subject of much news casting, as well as posturing on the part of at least one of Payton’s relatives. However, what went on before the death of 53-year-old Kathie Joyce Payton may turn out to be the important part of the story, as it’s very possible that Terry Payton will be exonerated of the multiple First-Degree Murder charges he is facing, all on the basis of self-defense. Facts that many knew about the Paytons have been overlooked in the sensationalism of a teen allegedly killing his mother…but facts they are, and if presented wholly at the upcoming trial, may turn the tide in favor of the young man who says he had been brutalized for years before that horrible day last year.
Alcohol and Asperger’s Syndrome
Kathie Payton was known in Edgar County for having a distinct drinking problem.
Those who have known her for most of her life advised that she began drinking daily at about age 17, and many advised that they’d never known her to be sober. Kathie’s alcohol of choice, according to those who know her and those who sold it to her on a regular basis, was Jim Beam whiskey.
She is reported to have consumed alcohol regularly during her two pregnancies; the first child, a girl, was born with signs of mild autism (and an actual, later diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome, which is more distinguished by disorganized behavioral, communication and social functioning than by cognitive and speech disorders, such as characterize autism. While causes for each have been debated, and the largely-recognized cause of both Asperger’s and autism is a presence of neuron-affecting heavy metals [generally caused by childhood immunizations], high amounts of alcohol can also similarly affect neurofunction, this according to Mayo Clinic studies). Terry, too, showed signs of impairment to a certain level as regards social functioning, but like many later diagnosed with Asperger’s, especially a high-functioning case, he had an incredibly high IQ and did extremely well at school.
By the time Terry came along, his older sister was being batted back and forth between Kathie and the girl’s father.
Terry’s father, Steven Lye, a citizen of England, quickly came to fall out of favor with Kathie and not long after Terry’s birth, she reportedly saw to it that, after an episode of violence that resulted in a misdemeanor domestic battery conviction for Lye in 1997 and a divorce in 1998, he was removed from the country and would no longer be allowed in, as a non-resident.
Kathie went the distance when Lye was out of the picture, legally changing her son’s name from Lye to Payton.
Ignoring the alcoholism
Reports indicate that the family was aware of dysfunction in Terry’s home, but could do little about it: neither of Terry’s sisters were able to come to his defense; his paternals were in another country; and Kathie Payton’s family had already by and large disowned her.
This also included her older sister, Jan Burno, who has recently made a considerably negative impact in Edgar County with her ongoing diatribes against anyone who not only supports Terry, but even begins to tell the truth about her sister: that she was a chronic alcoholic and abuser.
Burno, sources say, preferred to keep Kathie the ‘family secret’ when she was alive, being inclined to ignore her since she was ‘safely’ ensconced in public housing in Paris while the rest of the family (including Burno, who lives in the Chicago area) simply didn’t have to deal with her.
Girl removed, but not Terry
With her daughter finally removed from her home in the early 90s, after documented cases of Kathie leaving the girl outside the house at a very young age (5 and 6), Kathie is reported to have descended further into alcoholism; irretrievably, it was described, if it hadn’t already been the case. Over the course of years, she had tried Alcoholics Anonymous, but it didn’t work because “she didn’t have any distinct belief system,” according to one source, and “because it was faith-based, she wouldn’t do it.” The alcoholism caused documented transiency; every time Kathie went to court for various reasons (primarily having to do with care of the children), documents show she was living in a different location.
A final custody decision on her daughter—to send the girl to live with her father—was made in the mid-90s.
Such a decision was never rendered for Terry…despite the fact that as he grew, he, too, would be locked out of the house when his age was still in the single digits, and he would be forced to sleep in the grass during all kinds of weather conditions, this according to neighbors who observed it first-hand.
Lost jobs over drinking
As Kathie further descended into alcoholism, sources report that her substance abuse grew to involve illegal dope, in particular, amphetamines.
While she would manage through a week’s time to purchase a bottle of alcohol at multiple locations throughout Paris, including not only the local liquor stores but WalMart and Kroger as well, she was apparently imbibing from the local drug trade as well.
This condition was expensive and, in turn, caused job loss for Kathie at any vocation she attempted. Sources in Paris indicate that she drank herself out of positions at WalMart, RNJ’s Liquors, and when she was still married to Lye, a position at Goodwill because she was reportedly drinking on the job.
Ironically, the job at the liquor store, and subsequent termination, reportedly lead to an incident of Resisting Arrest in June of 2007. Upon this, Kathie was jailed for two days before being released. During those two days, no one is certain where exactly Terry, at age 12, was.
Attempts to help
Inability for Kathie to keep gainful employment in turn caused Terry’s paternal family to get involved. Yet even this was met with dysfunction.
Steven Lye knew that any monetary funds he would send in the form of support was going right to alcohol for Kathie. So in an attempt to offset this misdirection of funds, his family purchased ‘vouchers’ at WalMart so certain items, such as food and clothing, could be purchased for the boy. Yet even this attempt was reportedly twisted by his mother, who would make the purchases of necessities, then return items for cash or a store credit, at which time she would then get her alcohol.
He managed to purchase a computer for his son, through which it was hoped Terry could keep regular communication with his family in England, but it was utilized by Kathie to send foul and abusive emails to them instead.
Bullying, abuse and knives
This kind of deprivation wasn’t the extent of abuse to which Terry was exposed, however.
Being so reticent by nature anyway, he was being bullied and made fun of at school. This, compounded with increasing abuse—both physical and mental/emotional—at home created a withdrawn personality in the boy. He developed a disabling stutter and at times could barely express himself. His grandparents would call from England and attempt to speak to him, managing to elicit responses to the most basic of questions (such as “How are you, dear?”, to which he would answer, “I’m fine; how are you?”, but which conversations, the Lyes later learned, were being monitored by Kathie, as she was literally standing over him, listening not only to his end of the conversation, but the Lyes’ end by speaker phone) but little else.
And while Terry excelled in school, between the bullying and his mother, the pressure was sometimes crushing.
At one point, during a telephonic conference with a school guidance counselor in Paris, Kathie, while discussing what would otherwise be considered insignificant problems with Terry’s schooling, opined to the counselor that if Terry created any more grief for her, she would “cut off his legs with an electric knife while he slept” and “would slit his throat if he stole her medicine.”
The teacher, Staci Garzolini-Skelton, made mental note of such a statement, not being aware of the broader impact.
As it turned out, part of the mental and emotional abuse Kathie was heaping upon him had to do with knives. She was, neighbors report, constantly threatening her son with physical harm from knives, which she kept all around the kitchen. It was her favorite threat, said multiple neighbors, to literally yell and scream at her son, even when she was too drunk to stand or otherwise function, that she was going to “cut him” with knives.
It has been intimated that she had also repeatedly pulled knives and even struck out at Terry with them, feigning cutting or stabbing him in order to continue to perpetual mental abuse. While this remains unsubstantiated by eyewitnesses, neighbors have confirmed that Kathie had actually point-blank told him she was going to “kill him with a knife.”
These same neighbors have, in subsequent months since her death, wondered aloud why the knives weren’t removed from the home, by Kathie herself; the unspoken answer being that she apparently kept plenty of knives around just in case she intended to make good on her threat.
Drinking herself to death; DCF
In 2010, Kathie’s physical condition had deteriorated so much that she was placed on social security disability, and was told by her physician that she needed to go on a pacemaker or she wouldn’t have long to live. This problem was exacerbated, her physician advised, because she wouldn’t stop drinking, and her liver was reportedly also about to give out from the decades of abuse.
It was also at this time that multiple calls had been placed, by Terry at times but by others including neighbors (who had repeatedly been forced to take Terry in when he was locked out of the apartment in housing), to the Department of Children and Family Services, regarding Terry’s living conditions and what could be done about it.
Kathie was aware of these calls and would repeatedly thwart any attempt DCFS would make to intervene, primarily because if he were removed from her home, she wouldn’t be receiving several hundred dollars a month in social security benefits the agency awards dependents of recipients….and of course she “needed” that money because of the ongoing and increasing substance abuse.
Law also called
DCFS (and, according to police reports, local law enforcement as well; they too took no action) was reportedly made aware of the knife/violence threats; the ongoing utterances of his mother to the effect that he was “a retard,” “a reject,” and “a worthless piece of sh!t”, and the fact that neighbors were tending to him, sometimes for days, when he was locked out of his own place.
They were aware of the fact that since a very young age, Terry had been forced to tend to not only himself but his mother, including cleaning the house, tending to chores like laundry, dishes and even cooking. They were aware that Terry would at times be forced to pick his mother up and physically haul her back into the home after she would chase him outside (oftentimes beating him all the way out), stumble, fall, and be unable to get back up of her own power.
They were aware that despite the intensive abuse, he still loved and cared for his mother…but the straws on the camel’s back were mounting, and the hope was that DCFS would get into and resolve the situation before that one straw was placed that broke that camel’s back.
The camel’s back
That straw came on June 23, 2011.
A little more than a month after Terry’s 16th birthday, the day of Kathie’s death began as usual: with the woman reportedly drinking large volumes of Jim Beam, possibly consuming drugs (both legal and illegal), and generally being aggressive and abusive to her son. When he awoke by 10 a.m., Kathie was drunk, belligerent and verbally assaulting Terry incessantly.
Those who’ve spoken (albeit in a limited fashion) to Terry in the past year have been able to ascertain that it was “a usual day for him,” and no one would ever have imagined that it would end as it did.
“If there were any chance that Terry could have escaped from her, he would have done so,” one source close to Terry said, outlining that the boy incurred his mother’s wrath when he’d had enough of her drunken haranguing and began pouring her precious Jim Beam down the sink drain.
This effort produced a horrific response in Kathie, and she allegedly grabbed a knife—a usual course of conduct in such confrontations—and began attacking her son.
Terry has since told his family that he was forced to defend himself, because “she was going to kill me.”
Reporting later that at this point he was terrified, Terry, who stands 6-foot-4 but thin and wiry, was able to wrestle down his mother, a bloated, ravaged but fueled-by-alcoholic fury 53-year-old, whereupon his efforts to prevent her from inflicting damage upon him resulted in her head being bounced, hard, a number of times on the floor.
While it’s unclear at what point it occurred, this was followed by multiple stab wounds to Kathie’s body—seven in all.
Several hours passed
Terry later revealed that the whole incident occurred around 1-1:30 p.m. that afternoon.
It wasn’t until about 6 p.m. that he walked in to the investigations division of the Paris police department—which sat directly across the street from the Paytons’ brick housing unit—and asked for help, telling them, “I think I killed my mom.”
What occurred in the interim hours is largely unknown. It has been revealed that Terry did make contact via text with a friend by the name of Jakob Shumaker, telling him he’d killed his mother and he “needed help to make the body disappear.”
“I stabbed her seven times after mercilessly beating the sh!t out of her,” Terry reportedly texted Shumaker, this being revealed during a July 18, 2011 preliminary hearing.
Also in those ensuing hours, Terry made numerous Facebook posts, one including an assessment of himself as it related to the killing:
“I’m a monster!” he wrote before turning himself in for the alleged act.
And thus, the treatment
Terry was treated as just such a monster, as is the usual course of action by law enforcement in Edgar County—which, locals have learned over the course of the past year with Disclosure’s and Edgar County Watchdogs’ coverage of, is easily one of the most corrupt counties in downstate Illinois.
Reports indicate that statements were taken from Terry without benefit of having an attorney present, and, worse, without the court’s appointment of a guardian for the boy, who legally is a juvenile but was being dealt with as an adult and without the usual protections of an alleged juvenile offender.
And even though he was ultimately charged as an adult with the crimes of two counts of First-Degree Murder, he was actually afforded less opportunities for contact than the average adult would have been—a situation that was made all the worse by the fact that he was a 16-year-old boy who was accused of killing his own mother, the only other family member he had any regular contact with.
An early assessment of why such charges were almost immediately leveled at the teen was made by unnamed public officials who observed him: they stated that he “wasn’t crying.”
However, what those officials failed to realize was that people with most forms of Asperger’s, high-functioning or near-autism level, have one thing in common: When under stress, they generally go into “shutdown mode,” and are incapable of crying, at that point or often at any other time.
Subsequent authorities dealing with the case, including Terry’s first court-appointed public defender Lisa Kaye DeSelms (now Dent, former Richland County prosecutor/contender for Clay County prosecutor/ex of former Richland County deputy JD Robinson), apparently didn’t bother to learn the extent of what an Asperger’s patient can and cannot be categorized as: an early attempt to determine whether Terry could plead “not guilty by reason of insanity” was a wash, and exact results of a psych exam were unavailable in court documents.
DeSelms-Dent, apparently in over her head with such a case, bowed out several months into the case, citing “migraines” as a reason, according to those present in the courtroom.
Bond reduction, but no one to bond to
The new defense attorney, Robert E. McIntire, took over in October, but only after DeSelms-Dent had secured a bond reduction in the case to $10,000.
This bond was posted thanks to the Lye family in England, but Terry was unable to meet with the terms of it, as there were no family members in the area to take him in, and he would have had to have stayed with a “foster” family of sorts in order to comply with specifics of it: total home confinement, meaning he must be with one of the residents of the home at all times; electronic home monitoring; no contact with anyone not authorized by his guardian ad litem; no internet or phone access to anyone other than for homeschooling or to contact GAL-approved people.
He was remanded to the custody of Charles and Beth Hubbard, who, while doing their best, could not fulfill the terms. Released at the end of August, Terry was inexplicably remanded to the custody of neighboring Vermillion County detention in mid-October.
A nearest relative was Jan Burno, who wanted nothing to do with Terry following the murder of her sister, and who continues, in bizarre, televised tirades, to insist that her nephew is a cold-blooded killer.
However, by all appearances, it seems that Burno has a cat-in-a-litterbox mentality when it comes to revising history about her sister.
Burno, reports indicate, was able to gain access to the Paytons’ housing apartment and removed literally everything of value in the place. She either trashed any items that belonged to Terry, sold anything of any worth at a local resale shop, or, in a move that showed just how bitter she was, took items that she believed were incriminating toward Terry to the Illinois State Police, apparently in hopes that it all would seal the state’s case against him. Included in this was a heart-wrenching poem that Terry wrote (see inset), according to sources, long before the death of his mother. Burno, however, reportedly insisted that he wrote it after he allegedly killed Kathie Payton, all done in “guilt.”
She was also carefully deceptive: Burno cleaned out what there was in Kathie’s bank account following fraudulently signing off on legal paperwork declaring that she was “the only next of kin” besides Terry (there are two other sisters, Sherry and Barb, as well as the Lye family and Terry’s 18-year-old half-sister there in Paris). When the Lyes called the bank in question, they reported to Maureen Lye that they couldn’t give any information on the matter and that the family would have to “get a lawyer” in order to pursue anything against Burno.
Body cremated; BAC unclear
Burno was also in charge of having Kathie’s remains cremated. This step was taken, according to sources, without an independent medical examiner having a chance to look at the body or do any kind of analysis beyond what the state conducted.
The fear is that any existing analysis, in order to stay in keeping with things in Edgar County, will be skewed. Whether there was an adequate chemical analysis of Kathie’s blood alcohol content as well as any possible other drugs in her system is something that remains to be revealed when the matter comes to trial; thus far, nothing has been openly stated about such content.
Burno comes across in all her assertions as what those who know her claim her to be: completely unbalanced. In TV news clips of the court proceedings, in internet chat sites, in comment sections of online news reports, Burno is defensive and revisionist. She seems to mirror what many have said Kathie Payton was: belligerent, aggressive, and not making a good image of herself. Some online writers have described her behavior as “psycho.”
Those who know her well, however, describe Burno as desperate to keep an image of a non-dysfunctional Payton family living on in the minds of those left behind.
“She would never admit that her sister had a drinking problem,” said one source who preferred to not be mentioned by name. “She would do anything to cover up that she did; it was like a complete embarrassment to her, but she would never help Kathie when she was alive. Her other two sisters knew and recognized Kathie had a problem, but Jan never would. She’d just say that Kathie was ‘maligned’ and that all the neighbors were lying about her and all the abuse they saw Terry go through.”
The bottom line with Burno, it appears, is that with her slash of hot pink lipstick, haircut that’s 30 years too young for her early-60s age, spandex pants and toting Terry’s Bible around, she seems to be grandstanding…not for Terry’s conviction, but for Jan’s 15 minutes of fame.
The public has seen through Burno’s posturing, and in droves.
At early court appearances in 2011, community support for Terry Payton was phenomenal, with dozens of friends, schoolmates, etc., turning out at the courthouse to show that they knew what Terry lived: that he was abused, that he was constantly threatened, and that they believe he acted in self-defense against his oftentimes-brutal mother.
According to court sources, Terry has been offered a plea deal on reduced charges. Independently of his court-appointed counsel, he has stated unequivocally that he will not plead to what he did not do, and is insisting on a jury trial. There, it appears that his intent (like that of Texan Brandon Jenkins in Richland County back in the Spring) is to plead, and prove, self-defense, and be completely exonerated in the matter.
If he is exonerated, Maureen Lye told Disclosure via email, the Lye family will make every effort to remove Terry fromIllinois and take him back overseas with them.
If this is effected, the honor roll/spelling champ/Pokemon aficionado will be able to fulfill the life a teen should be able to live, without the shadow of alcohol and abuse looming over him for the rest of his life, and perhaps impacting him in a permanently negative way.
“If he has a conviction, he will never be able to go to University to study; he will never achieve his dreams or hold a decent position of work, or ever be of value to the Community,” Maureen Lye stated. “For so bright a young man, that would be devastating for him.”
Continuing quotes from Mrs. Lye
Mrs. Lye is not without emotion for Terry’s mother.
“I feel a touch of sadness and pity for his mother because an alcoholic descends into a world of hopelessness, depravity and destruction,” she said. “For some, as in Kathie’s case, there is no return. I also feel anger. Anger that a mother could impose such a life on her child, the one she carried and should care for. Instead, she has left for Terry – a brilliant student with good prospects ahead of him – a legacy of despair and desolation. Terry has had enough punishment in his young life to last a lifetime. He has lost both his mother and his future. And if there is any justice in this world he deserves better.
“Importantly, what has the years of abuse done to him and especially the events of that day? Will he ever get over it, even with the passage of time? I sincerely hope so,” Maureen Lye said. “Recently, a good friend gave me a book to read, ‘A Boy Called It.’ The story seemed to run on similar lines to Terry, although it did not end with a death and I am very pleased to note that David Pelzer, the author, has made such a success with his life. I was so touched by his story that I wrote to him. We are hoping that if all goes well for Terry that he can also make a success of his life.”
Maureen Lye stated that she knew Terry loved and cared for his mother for all her frailties, and endured the abuse because he did love her.
“He endured the abuse because he loved her. He looked after her in her drunken and drug-fuelled binges and people will tell you that they often saw him trying to pick his mother off the floor when she fell drunk but they would not help him because she was so abusive. He cooked, he did the washing and household chores. There was no dark side to Terry, he was genuinely nice. That is why I think there is such a large support for him locally. People know him.”
The community has indeed rallied behind Terry Payton.
Local t-shirt shop, Teri’s Threads in Paris, was selling t-shirts of $20 that “Support Terry.” The purple shirts bear a white design that exemplifies the struggle Asperger’s patients endure: sometimes being so stuck in their own heads in the midst of trauma and turmoil that it appears as though they are bereft of any emotion at all, including despair and remorse…something that certainly is not the case; it’s just that Asperger’s patients have difficulty expressing said emotions when the shutdown occurs, and pulling themselves up out of it isn’t something they can actively do; it’s something that happens to them.
Bracelets and laminated buttons have been created; other fundraisers have been held. As well, a legal defense fund has been set up in Terry’s name by the Lyes, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to help with private investigation and defense in the case.
The Lyes have noted that the fund has been largely depleted in the effort to at least provide an equitable defense for the teen. They actively are seeking contributions; anyone interested may submit donations to Terry Payton’s Legal Defence Fund at First Bank and Trust, 101 South Central, PO Box 880, Paris, Illinois, 61944.
Terry Payton was last in court July 6. A tentative jury trial date was reported to have been set for some time in September, however, Disclosure was unable to confirm said date as of press time.