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Computer animation could be used in Payne murder trial

Philly man accused of killing two in Altoona apartment

HOLLIDAYSBURG — The Blair County district attorney’s office is again considering use of a computer-generated animation during an upcoming murder trial.

District Attorney Pete Weeks referenced the animation on Monday in court where Judge Timothy M. Sullivan indicated that pretrial motions for Isiah Solomon Payne, 32, of Philadelphia, should be scheduled for mid-May.

Weeks said he thought the animation, used for the first time last year, was an effective tool in helping jurors understand what happened.

Payne is facing first-degree murder and related charges in the deaths of Natalie Washington, 52, of Altoona, and Mikal Jackson-Stevenson, 28, of Philadelphia. The man and woman were found dead May 28 inside Washington’s first-floor apartment at 2606 Beale Ave. of gunshot wounds to the head.

Criminal charges filed in July by Altoona police alleged that Payne and his girlfriend, Onya Lewis, were selling cocaine for Jackson-Stevenson out of Washington’s apartment. During a preliminary hearing in August, testimony indicated that Payne and Jackson-Stevenson were in a dispute over drug money.

Defense attorney Richard Corcoran, who has already filed pretrial motions on Payne’s behalf, advised Sullivan on Monday that he is requesting money to cover the cost of hiring an investigator.

Weeks advised that he has contacted Jeremy Gibson for services in creating a computer-generated animation.

Gibson handled that task last year for the prosecution of John Patrick Stiver II in the 2018 fatal shooting of 58-year-old David Alan Hoover of Altoona in a church parking lot at Second Street and Fourth Avenue.

In Stiver’s case, the creation and use of the computer-generated animation caused controversy. Defense attorney Kristen Anastasi raised questions about accuracy and whether the jury would view the animation as a presentation of what happened.

Sullivan, who presided over the Stiver trial and pretrial hearings, provided jury instructions to address Anastasi’s objections. He also directed Gibson to take on some additional animation work to illustrate the defense’s theory of how the fatal shooting happened.

The jury hearing Stiver’s trial convicted him of first-degree murder, leading to a state-mandated sentence of life in prison without parole.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 814-946-7456.

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