October 4, 2006
Lottie Payne's defense team got the chance to tell their side of the story in court today.
Their first witness, forensic pathologist Dr. Deborah Gunnin, testified that the abuse Lottie received when she was younger would cause her to appear numb during times of stress, and that's why she may not have seemed upset when the bodies of her children were found in a retention pond.
Later in the day, Lottie Payne took the stand. For the first time, the mother accused of neglecting her children before they drowned recounted the exact minutes before their deaths.
Payne's attorney, Michael Garrett, asked, "Would you agree with me, small children -- that you've gotta watch them, as you said, with all your eyes every second? You agree with that?"
"Yes I do," Payne testified.
"Did you do it this time?" Garrett asked.
Payne testified that at 5:44 p.m. on Saturday April 23, she went to the bathroom. Shortly thereafter, two-year-old Nicole walked in. After Nicole left, Payne didn't hear the children again and assumed they were asleep. A little while later she says she called out for the toddlers with no response.
Garrett: "You get up, and you don't flush because you're in a rush to check on the kids, and you get up and you see--is the front door open at this point?"
Payne: "Yes. When I went down the hallway from the bathroom, the front door was standing wide open at that time."
Garrett: "And you go out front, go all the way around the side of the house, to the back of the house...did you check all the--what's that building at the back of the house?"
Payne: "That's the shed."
Garrett: "Did you check the shed?"
Payne: "Yes I did."
Garrett: "Made sure they wasn't in the shed or behind the shed."
Payne: "Yes, that's correct."
Garrett: "Came back in the house..."
She testified she checked under the beds and inside closets, each time coming up empty-handed. Then she went back outside to check the pond near Highway 278. Afterwards, she testified, she ran into a neighbor who suggested she call 911.
At 5:50 p.m. Dennis Payne would call again. He previously testified that he couldn't hear the children in the background during his second call to the house.
Garrett: "So all this happened--you in the bathroom, and the search, and going to the back of the house, and going all the way down, a couple of football fields down to the pond, and a couple football fields coming back, and all of this, and then talking to Mr. Bails, Billy Bails, and we're talking six minutes here, right?"
Payne: "Yeah, something like that."
When the defense asked her to tell the court one last time what happened in those precious minutes, Payne broke down.
When the DA asked how many times Payne had left the children unsupervised, she said only twice, and that both incidents were before they moved to Warren County.