Investigating the Death of Innocents

The other day I read Michael Orozco’s Investigating the Death of Innocents and used it and other sources to update Tyler Payne‘s casefile. I read the Kindle edition (I don’t have a Kindle but do have Kindle for PC) which cost $4.99. The paperback is $11.70.

I’ve written about Tyler before. I’ve got a lot of child abuse deaths on Charley but this one seems more horrible than most, perhaps because it’s more detailed. Tyler and his little sister Ariana were deliberately starved to death by his father and his father’s girlfriend, both of them drug addicts. Ariana’s body was found; Tyler’s was not and probably never will be. Dad’s on death row now and the girlfriend, who turned states’ evidence, is serving a 22-year sentence. This is all the more horrifying when you consider that Tyler and Ariana’s mother, Jamie Hallam, had full legal custody of them, and their father had pretty much abducted them, and both the police and child protective services did nothing to help; quite the contrary in fact.

Michael Orozco, author of the aforementioned book, is the lead investigator in the Payne case and the guy who discovered Ariana Payne’s body and missed Tyler’s. The book was okay. The writing style was pretty clunky, but the book covered the case in great detail, both the investigation and the trial. One of the Amazon.com reviewers thought Orozco was way too harsh on Jamie Hallam, but I didn’t think so. He also said something like, “Even if she was addicted to drugs, she loved her children, had always taken good care of her children, and did her best to get them back when Christopher took them away from her.” Jamie later settled a lawsuit with CPS for $1 million. They admitted they screwed up pretty bad. She lost her suit against the Tucson Police Department, though.

I feel really bad for Jamie. She was in such a no-win situation. She went through the proper legal channels to get her children back, and the system failed her. If she had actually tried to get them back herself, SHE would have been arrested and charged with kidnapping, and would have most likely lost the chance of ever seeing Ariana and Tyler again, and lost custody of her infant as well. Tyler and Ariana died horrible deaths and to this day, their father Christopher blames everyone but himself for what happened.

As for the book, I would recommend it if you want to know about the Payne case specifically, but not otherwise.

Lawsuit against police dismissed in Tyler/Ariana Payne case

A recap: Tyler and Ariana Payne were abducted by their non-custodial father, Christopher Payne, in Tucson, Arizona in 2006. He took them from their mother, Jamie Hallam, for what was supposed to be a few days, and never gave them back. Hallam had full custody of the kids, who hadn’t seen their father in years. He had no visitation rights, but he convinced Hallam to let him see the kids. After a few months of trying to get Christopher to return the children, Hallam called the police. They located the children, but on the (bad) advice of Arizona’s Child Protective Services, refused to return them to their mother. Christopher, you see, had filed for temporary custody. Never mind that no decision had been made and Hallam, their mother who had raised them from birth without Christopher’s help, still had full custody. Never mind that Christopher was $19,000 behind in his child support payments. The kids stayed with their father.

A few months later, Tyler and Ariana were both dead, having been systematically starved and abused by their father and their stepmother, Reina Gonzales. Ariana’s body turned up in a storage locker in 2007, after Christopher the Genius stopped making the rent payments. (Way to evade detection, dumbass.) Tyler’s was never found. Christopher was sentenced to death and Gonzales to 22 years for the kids’ murders.

Hallam filed a lawsuit against CPS and the Tucson PD, arguing — quite rightly — that if they had just done their damn jobs properly and returned the kids to her, the custodial parent, then they wouldn’t have died. CPS settled and admitted they made “mistakes” in the case. And (I just found this out), back in October, the case against the police department was dismissed. According to this article:

In a nine-page decision released today, Judge Carmine Cornelio said there was no evidence on that day “that there was a high probability that substantial harm would result from their failure to remove the children from (Christopher Payne’s) custody and care.”

[…]

In his ruling, Cornelio pointed out the first time there was any indication there was anything wrong in the Payne household was in mid-April when one of Payne’s relatives said Ariana appeared “dirty and scrawny” and when Gonzales said Payne lost his job and began abusing the children.

“Given the lack of temporal connection between the time of TPD’s visit to Payne’s apartment on March 9, 2006, and any evidence concerning the abuse and neglect, plaintiffs cannot establish causation between TPD’s actions and the abuse of the children,” Cornelio wrote.

So heinous on so many levels

The murders of Tyler Payne and his sister Ariana are the most horrible I’ve read about in a long time. Sickening doesn’t even describe it — there are no words to describe it. They disappeared in 2006 and Ariana’s body was found in February 2007 and the murderers have both been convicted, but I didn’t hear about any of this until a few days ago when someone sent me a link to a MySpace page about Tyler, whose body has never been found.

Both children were beaten severely by their father and perhaps his girlfriend, then locked in a closet and left to starve to death. Ariana’s body had twelve broken ribs, a broken shoulder blade and a compressed vertebra, and who knows what injuries Tyler suffered. Their father said Ariana died first and he left her body in the closet with Tyler for a week before he also expired. I cannot imagine the horror those children went through, particularly Tyler, huddled with his sister’s corpse in the dark. He was four or five when he died. Ariana was about three. Both kids look absolutely adorable in their pictures. Tyler looks a lot like my nephew Zachary did at that age.

To make matters even worse, this was totally preventable. I mean, child abuse deaths usually are, but these ones especially so. The kids’ mom had custody, and their dad stole them from her. She called the police to get them back, and the police called CPS who, in violation of the custody order, instructed the police to leave the kids where they were. *headdesk* One article quoted a police officer as saying something like, “If the mom had insisted, we probably would have gotten them or at least threatened to arrest the dad.” Nice try blaming the victim there. People shouldn’t have to INSIST that the police do their damn jobs. If the cops had recovered the children, or if CPS hadn’t butted in where they didn’t belong, both of them would be alive today. Tyler and Ariana’s mother settled a lawsuit with CPS, but I’m sure she would rather have her kids alive again.

The defendants, Christopher Payne and his girlfriend Reina Gonzales, don’t sound especially bright. Reina apparently tests as mentally retarded and Christopher doesn’t strike me as a genius either. Ariana’s body was discovered in a storage locker after Christopher was dumb enough stop making the rental payments. After he was arrested, the only story he could come up with is that his kids deliberately starved themselves to death because they missed their mom and he “did everything” to try to make them eat (everything except take them to a doctor or a hospital, I guess) but they died in spite of his all his heroic efforts. When a police officer asked Christopher if he thought he had killed his children, he said no, but that he “might have neglected them” by failing to seek medical attention for their malnutrition. Uh-huh. Keep digging, Chris.

Reina and Christopher had a two-year-old son together who was not abused. He was healthy and well-fed when his parents were arrested. Why the little boy was deemed worthy of receiving food and other necessities of life but his older half-siblings were not has never been explained.

At Christopher’s trial (Reina pleaded guilty and testified against him), the defense used the slightly more plausible theory that Reina had beaten and starved the kids without Christopher’s knowledge. They also said Christopher’s life should be spared because he’s a heroin addict and he had a bad childhood. It didn’t work, of course. He’s on death row now. Good riddance. The needle’s too good for types like him.

It’s a terrible world out there. I think I’m going to go look at Cute Overload now and try to forget this for awhile.