| Crime |

Okey Payne, 95: Strange Details From Elderly Murder Suspect's Arrest

Okey Payne during a February 10 court appearance in Boulder County.EXPAND
Okey Payne during a February 10 court appearance in Boulder County.
Keep Westword Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

After the February 3 arrest of 95-year-old Okey Payne for allegedly killing an employee of the Lafayette assisted-living facility where he resided, we explored previous prosecutions of extremely elderly homicide suspects around the country. The accused murderers didn't serve jail time in any of the cases we documented, either because they were found incompetent to stand trial or they died before a sentence could be imposed.

Boulder County authorities are clearly making an effort to beat these odds. Payne was formally charged with murder on February 10, and his arrest affidavit stresses that he seemed cogent and in command of his faculties. Yet the narrative also includes a number of dubious or flat-out bizarre claims, including Payne's assertions that he was being secretly drugged in his sleep.

The affidavit's account begins at 7:13 a.m. February 3 at Legacy Assisted Living, located at 225 Waneka Parkway, where Payne was already in custody for allegedly killing Ricardo Medina-Rojas, a 44-year-old staffer, with a single gunshot to the head. Payne was subsequently transported to the police station in Lafayette, where his Miranda rights were written out for him; he's extremely hard of hearing. According to the document, Payne waived his right to remain silent and elected to speak to investigators.

During the chat that followed, Payne maintained that staff members at Legacy had been stealing from him since October 2019 — claims that were reportedly investigated and debunked. Nonetheless, he was convinced he was being victimized, and even went to the trouble of writing down the serial numbers of the currency he kept in his wallet.

On the morning of February 2, Payne told officers, he found two $100 bills missing. So the next day, he rose at around 3 a.m., got dressed and headed to the front lobby. When Medina-Rojas, a maintenance worker, arrived for his shift, Payne asked him, "Where's my $200?" In response, Payne said Medina-Rojas "mumbled something," after which he pointed the gun at the staffer's head and fired.

An excerpt from the report: "Okey told me he 'Blew Ricardo away.' Okey stated it was too bad he had to 'waste' him (Ricardo), but he's hoping if something good comes from all this is that the stealing will stop."

Legacy workers had previously told Payne that he couldn't keep a firearm in his room; he said they placed his .22 caliber rifle and a Beretta handgun inside a storage container that was kept at a separate Boulder facility, but he still had a .45 caliber ACP that dated back to World War I and was a gift from his father that he'd received when he was 23.

Competency is addressed in this passage: "Throughout the hours this affiant spent interviewing Okey, this affiant observed that Okey was clear-headed, lucid, and he provided detailed information regarding this incident. Okey was orientated to date and time and at no point did Okey appear confused or unable to comprehend questions or our conversation. Okey had difficulty hearing, but we were able to communicate through written questions and verbal answers."

However, a separate section points out that "Okey told this affiant that he thinks the staff at the Legacy are trying to kill him and take all his money. He also believes his ex-wife is working with them to steal his money. Okey told this affiant he has woken up with needle marks in his big toe and he believes the staff are drugging him."

On February 10, two more court dates for Payne were scheduled: a review hearing on February 22 and a preliminary hearing on May 5. In the meantime, a GoFundMe site has been launched to benefit the family of Medina-Rojas; it's raised just over $15,000 toward a goal of $50,000.

Click to read the Okey Payne arrest affidavit.

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.