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Bail is denied in hammer attack

The Baltimore Sun

While a judge denied bail yesterday to the 83-year-old Howard County man accused of attacking his wife with a hammer, relatives told of domestic strife the couple experienced in recent years.

Calvin Ralph Payne, who appeared for a hearing via a video feed from the county detention center, is charged with first- and second-degree attempted murder, and first- and second-degree assault in the attack Monday, which left 81-year-old Alma Payne lying in a pool of blood in the couple's Columbia home.

Payne appealed to Judge Patricia S. Pytash for bail "as low as possible."

"I'm asking you, judge, to pray in your prayers for me," Payne said. "I am hurt to no end that something like this has happened to my wife."

Family members who attended the hearing urged the judge to keep Payne in custody.

"I believe he's too much of a danger," said the couple's son, Cedric Payne, a sergeant in the Air Force who recently returned from a tour in Iraq. "People like that do not need to be in the community. They can snap at any time."

Payne told the judge that his father has a history of verbally abusing his mother, though he knew of no physical abuse.

In 2005, Alma Payne went to live in Brooklyn with relatives for several months because she feared her husband after an argument, said her nephew, the Rev. Eric Figueroa.

"He called every day, three times a day to get her to come back," Figueroa, a resident of Brooklyn, N.Y., said after the hearing. "He promised to get help."

Alma Payne is recovering at Maryland Shock Trauma Center from four broken fingers and head injuries that required 50 staples, Assistant State's Attorney James F. Brewer said. Relatives said she also had a fractured jaw and broken eye socket bones, and could lose an eye.

"She's being strong," Cedric Payne said of his mother, whom he visited in the hospital. "She knows what happened. She's in the healing process."

More details about the Monday evening incident emerged during the hearing. Payne was arrested at the Columbia home he has shared with his wife since 1977 after she had called 911 and said, "I'm dead. He's got a hammer."

Police said the first officers to arrive reported that they looked inside and saw Payne walking upstairs with a shiny object in his hands. After gaining entry, the officers found Alma Payne lying in a pool of blood in the master bedroom and thought she was dead. Cedric Payne said his mother told him that she lay on the floor to make her attacker think she was dead.

When a tactical team of officers arrived, police re-entered the house and found that she was alive. They found Calvin Payne sitting in the master bathroom holding a large kitchen knife. A blood-stained hammer with hair stuck to it was found on a dresser, police said.

Cedric Payne said his father, a retired Baltimore Circuit Court reporter, has had short-term memory loss in recent years, but has never been diagnosed with a disease.

Payne, who was not represented by an attorney, appeared cogent though agitated at times during the hearing. He could be sentenced to life in prison.

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