October 5, 2006
Lottie Payne was in tears upon learning she was going to jail. An emotional week in court has wrapped up with Payne still convinced she didn't do anything wrong.
In the end, a jury of 5 men and 7 women decided Lottie Payne did do something wrong a year and a half ago, when her two toddlers, 3 year old Jonah and 2 year old Nicole, disappeared from their home and wandered away.
Their bodies were found in a retention pond not far away from where they lived.
It was a quick decision this afternoon--only one and half hours of deliberation before they found Lottie Payne guilty of both counts of second degree child cruelty.
Payne clung to her attorney Michael Garrett as the judge sentences her to five years in prison followed by five years probation.
More than a year and a half has passed since her toddlers wandered to a nearby retention pond and drowned, and now the small town of Warrenton finally has some closure.
"The children lost their lives for five years...it's not enough," said one Warrenton resident.
One by one friends and neighbors of Lottie Payne came forward to plead with the judge.
"Every mother who had a child has had that child go missing at some point," one woman said.
Juror Gloria Ficklan says it wasn't a difficult decision.
"I feel sorry for Lottie Payne, but we have to look out for our kids," she said.
District attorney Dennis Sanders says it's the first time the law has gone into effect in the state of Georgia.
"I was afraid the jury wouldn't understand it," he told News 12.
Defense attorney Michael Garrett says he believes it was testimony made by Dennis Payne that hurt their case the most: "When he said he was going to sue the city of Warrenton, it was a devastating blow."
Sanders says he hopes the case sets an example to all parents in the Peach State.
Dennis Payne says he plans on appealing the court's decision.
It all started on April 23 of 2005. That's when a neighbor saw the children walk away from the home.
Lottie Payne testified she went to the bathroom, and that's when the kids wandered away.
Search teams went out. On April 25, Nicole and Jonah's bodies were found in a retention pond.
It was August before Lottie Payne was charged in the deaths with child cruelty for letting them get away.
She had a history with DFCS, we learned.
The trial started Monday and ended today with a guilty verdict and a sentence of five years behind bars.
April 23, 2005: Toddlers disappear
April 25, 2005: Bodies found
August 2005: Lottie Payne charged
October 2: Trial begins
October 5: Guilty verdict