Aug 12, 2013
09:31 AMThe Connecticut Story
Trial Nears in Boston Murder of Northeastern Student From Connecticut
Nicholas and Virginia Payne with a photo of their daughter, Rebecca, who was murdered in 2008 in Boston, where she was attending Northeastern University. Associated Press photo.
As a trial date nears in the case of a young New Milford woman who was murdered in Boston in 2008, defense counsel is seeking to have the two suspects that have been charged tried separately.
“The court date [for the trial to begin] is Sept. 16, and there’s a motion to sever,” said New Milford resident Nicholas Payne, the father of the victim, Rebecca Payne, in an interview last week, as he and his wife, Virginia, were driving to Boston for the pre-trial proceedings at Suffolk County Superior Court.
Ms. Payne was a student at Northeastern University in Boston when she was slain inside her Parker Hill Avenue apartment in the Mission Hill area in May 2008 in what is believed to have been a matter of mistaken identity. She was 22.
Last year, Cornell Smith, a former Roxbury, Mass., resident, was indicted on a murder charge, and a second man, Michael Balba of Billerica, Mass., was charged with perjury in the case.
Mr. Smith, who was 30 at the time, was indicted in April 2012 and formally charged in June with first-degree murder, armed assault in a dwelling and unlawful possession of a firearm. His arraignment was delayed, because he was serving a 12-1/2-year prison sentence regarding an unrelated 2010 federal drug conviction.
As a result of an agreement between the district attorney’s office and prison authorities, Mr. Smith is being held without bail in Massachusetts pending the murder trial.
He is currently being represented by court-appointed attorney John Courtney.
Mr. Balba, who was 55 at the time of his arrest, was also indicted in April 2012, charged with four counts of perjury for allegedly lying to the Suffolk County Grand Jury during the investigation of the homicide.
“The prosecution wants both tried at once, and the defense for Cornell Smith made a motion to sever,” Mr. Payne said.
“The motion to sever and motion to join was scheduled for today and was continued to Aug. 14,” said David Sheehan, assistant clerk-magistrate, after the Aug. 6 proceedings. “The attorney who made the motion could not be there, because of illness,” he said, referring to Mr. Courtney.