Bond was set Tuesday at $1 million each for two Franklin men accused of beating a Dayton teen to death while robbing him for drugs and money.
Michael A. Geldrich, 36, and Michael J. Watson, 39, both of Franklin, appeared for a video arraignment at 3 p.m. in Franklin Municipal Court where they were issued court-appointed attorneys. The men, who are charged with aggravated robbery and murder, are being housed at the Warren County Jail.
Judge Rupert Ruppert set a preliminary hearing for Dec. 10 and said the case could go directly to a grand jury. He told the defendants that depending on the grand jury’s determination, this could become a death penalty case.
Geldrich and Watson planned the robbery of Dione Payne, 16, of Dayton, who had been staying at Geldrich’s house on Vernon Street, according to a sworn affidavit signed Monday by Franklin Detective Jeff Stewart.
“During the robbery Geldrich struck the male victim (later identified as Payne) with a table leg, fists, stomped the male with his boots and repeatedly struck the male victim’s head against the floor,” Stewart said in the affidavit obtained exclusively by this newspaper.
Payne died Monday at Miami Valley Hospital after being dumped off by the two men around 10:30 a.m. Sunday in the emergency room at Atrium Medical Center in Middletown. A Middletown police report states the unconscious teen was pushed into the emergency room in a wheelchair by one of the men who then quickly fled the area.
Hospital personnel said Payne was in critical condition and had “heavy damage to his head and was bleeding from his ears,” according to the police report. He also had “heavy damage done to his chest from what appeared to be someone striking him repeatedly.”
Because of the severity of his injuries, Payne was transferred to Miami Valley Hospital. Hospital personnel there contacted Middletown police and stated the teen appeared to have been sexually assaulted, according to the police report.
Payne’s mother Tamiko Payne was sitting in the front row of the court during Tuesday’s arraignment along with about 15 friends and family. She told this newspaper in a phone interview prior to the hearing that the two men accused of her son’s death “premeditated this.”
When Geldrich’s face appeared on the television monitor during the video arraignment, Tamiko Payne looked at him for several minutes and shook her head before bursting into tears and running from the courtroom, sobbing loudly, “Oh my God.” She returned a few moments later before the hearing began.
The family declined comment outside the courtroom following the hearing, but friend Donna Parson said they want both men to receive the death penalty.
“This is what they deserve. Death,” she said. “This was a 16-year-old boy (beaten) by two full-grown men.”
Dione Payne’s family was still trying to come to terms with his death on Tuesday while planning his funeral and holding a vigil in his honor at their Dayton home.
Authorities said Payne was in Franklin to sell narcotics when he was robbed and beaten. The teen was just released Oct. 22 from the custody of the Ohio Department of Youth Services following an assault conviction.
According to Dayton Police reports, that incident involved him firing five shots at his mother’s boyfriend after an argument at the family’s home in October of 2012. Payne was arrested on a warrant several weeks later when he was stopped for littering in the DeSoto Bass neighborhood several blocks from his house. He was transported to juvenile detention where a small amount of cocaine was found in his pocket, according to the report.
Despite this past trouble with the law, Payne’s mother insisted that he never did drugs or drank alcohol.
“He never met a stranger,” Tamiko Payne said during the phone interview. She thinks being that trusting of a person may have had something to do with Dione’s death.
According to police reports, one of the men told hospital personnel that they had found Payne, though they didn’t specify where, and that they did not know him.
But the family said from what they’ve been able to gather, Payne was picked up by Michael Watson at his home on Dennison Avenue on Saturday and driven to the 11 Vernon St. home in Franklin where he was raped and beaten.
Tamiko Payne said she was at work at the time and doesn’t know how Watson and her son became acquainted. Her older son Johnny said he was also away from the home on Saturday, but spoke to his brother later in the day and thought he was just out with friends.
“When nobody heard from him on Sunday that’s when we got really worried,” he said.
Tamiko Payne said her son was a good student who attended West Carrollton City Schools for a time when he was younger and most recently attended Longfellow Alternative School in Dayton.
He loved science, according to his mother, and played drums for the Western Stars Drill Team when he was younger.
On his Facebook page, Payne made several statements in recent months about the possibility of dying young.
Franklin Police Chief Russ Whitman issued a statement Tuesday saying “there is no evidence whatsoever” that the beating of Payne was racially motivated. A friend of Payne’s family suggested after the court hearing that race was a factor.
“All evidence points to the crime being drug-related,” Whitman said in the statement. “Any suggestion that this is a ‘hate crime’ or racially motivated is not based upon actual evidence.”
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