A life of fear

The Baltimore Sun

Cedric Payne's visits to the state mental hospital where his father, Calvin, was involuntarily committed after beating his wife with a hammer last May follow a similar pattern: the elder Payne experiencing fleeting moments of focus followed by long periods of confusion.

As a result, Cedric, the only child of the Columbia couple, said that his 84-year-old father is where he should be, but that his 81-year-old mother, Alma, still fears for her life.

"She thinks that if he can get out, he'll come back and complete the job," Cedric Payne said in a telephone interview last week.

Alma Payne was attacked May 5 by her husband of 64 years in their Columbia home. Calvin Payne was charged with attempted murder and assault. After being sent to the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center, a maximum-security psychiatric hospital in Jessup, Calvin Payne was moved in October to Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville.

Assistant State's Attorney Danielle Duclaux said that doctors at both facilities, as well as a medical expert hired by the state, concurred on their findings regarding Calvin Payne's mental state.

"He was found incompetent [to stand trial] and not restorable," Duclaux said last week.

Payne will remain in a state facility indefinitely, and the charges against him will remain open for up to five years in the event that he is deemed fit to stand trial. Duclaux and Payne's attorney, Louis Willemin, believe that is unlikely, as does his son.

"He understands why he's there," said Cedric Payne, an Air Force pilot who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan. "But he really doesn't understand what he's done."

Cedric Payne, who is living at the family's house, said that he has visited his father at Springfield three times since December.

"He thinks nothing really happened," Cedric Payne, 45, said. "He knows she might have hurt her head, but when I mention her fingers, he'll say, 'What happened to her fingers?' He doesn't remember that she put her hands on her head trying to protect herself."

Alma Payne is visiting relatives in Brooklyn, N.Y. That's where she went in 2005 after her husband "threatened to buy a gun and shoot me in my head," according to a letter she wrote recently to Circuit Judge Louis A. Becker III. At the time, Alma Payne sought and received a one-year restraining order against her husband in Maryland and New York.

She remained in Brooklyn for several months, but eventually returned to Columbia after her husband received counseling. Cedric Payne said that his mother even attended some of those sessions to quell her fears.

Despite assurances from family members that Calvin Payne presents no danger while committed to a state facility, Alma Payne remains traumatized and fearful of what might happen should her husband be allowed to leave Springfield, her son said.

In the letter to the judge, Alma Payne asked that her husband be placed in a facility "that is adequately staffed and located as far away as possible from where I reside."

Cedric Payne said that his mother is "doing much better" but still is undergoing physical therapy after suffering a fractured jaw, a broken eye socket and several broken fingers. The sight in her right eye has not returned, the younger Payne said.

Cedric Payne said that his mother has been helped through the ordeal by her brothers, both of whom are ministers, as well as by her faith.

"It helps with just knowing there's someone out there, it helps in the aid of understanding," he said.

Cedric Payne said his father's family has a history of mental problems. Calvin's father was ordered to leave his wife and children after returning from World War I because of what might have been undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder, Cedric Payne said.

Calvin Payne, a former court reporter who once worked in Baltimore, verbally abused his wife and son for years, his son said.

"We knew he would get mad, he would go on and on, dwelling on the smallest thing for hours," the younger Payne recalled.

According to Cedric Payne, the threats turned physical only once before the attack last year. It happened when Cedric was in high school.

"I would say that my father was a bully," Cedric Payne said. "I stood up to him, and he never came after me again."

In her letter to Becker, which was presented in court during a recent motions hearing, Alma Payne said she believed the May attack was premeditated.

She said they were in the bedroom of their home watching the evening news, talking about an approaching church event. Her husband left the room briefly and returned with a hammer.

"Calvin was not enraged nor was he excited," she wrote. "He repeatedly questioned me after each hit on my head, 'Are you dead yet?' "

In closing her two-page handwritten letter, Alma Payne wrote: "I do desire to spend my remaining days in peace without fear from more abuse."

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