Woman charged in 2 kids' deaths

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Woman charged in 2 kids' deaths

Post  Jennie on Fri Jun 20, 2008 11:42 am

Ariana Payne killing----Woman charged in 2 kids' deaths ineligible for death penalty, expert says


A Tucson woman is competent to stand trial in the deaths of her ex-boyfriend's 2 young children, but she's mentally retarded, which would make her ineligible for the death penalty, a psychologist says. Denis W. Keyes testified Thursday in a hearing that Reina Irene Gonzales, 24, consistently tested within the range of mental retardation.

"Mental retardation is always a severe disability," said Keyes, an associate professor at the College of Charleston in Charleston, S.C.

Keyes' work was cited in a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling making mentally retarded persons ineligible for the death penalty.

If Pima County Superior Court Judge Paul S. Tang decides Gonzales is mentally retarded, she cannot be sentenced to death if convicted in the deaths of Ariana Payne, 4, and Tyler Payne, 5. Gonzales and her former boyfriend, Christopher Mathew Payne, 30, were indicted on 2 counts each of 1st-degree murder and child abuse. Payne, the victims' father, also is charged with 1 count of abandonment or concealment of a body.

Deputy County Attorney Susan Eazer said the state is seeking the death penalty if Gonzales and Payne are convicted because there were multiple killings, the two are adults and the victims were minors, and the killings were committed in a cruel, heinous or depraved manner. Payne is being tried separately before another judge.

Gonzales' trial is set to begin Oct. 7.

Payne's trial is set to begin Jan. 27 before Judge Richard S. Fields.

Ariana's body was found Feb. 18, 2007, decomposing in a covered plastic tub at a rented, North Side storage locker.

Tyler's body hasn't been found, and police suspect his remains could be in the Los Reales Landfill on the Southeast Side. Police unsuccessfully searched the site twice.

Payne and Gonzales have pleaded not guilty and are being held in the Pima County Jail with bonds of more than $1 million.

Keyes was hired by the defense to determine whether Gonzales was mentally retarded. Keyes testified Thursday that when he saw consistent IQ scores in the low 70s, he realized that Gonzales deserved a "thorough" evaluation on her adaptive skills.

Mental retardation arises before age 18, Keyes testified.

Keyes said he believes Gonzales became mentally retarded "probably since she was a child, possibly at birth."

The hearing on whether Gonzales is mentally retarded was expected to continue Friday.

(source: Tucson Citizen)
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