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Murder suspect wants statement suppressed

HOLLIDAYSBURG — A Philadelphia man charged with first-degree murder in the 2020 fatal shooting of two people inside an Altoona residence is asking a Blair County judge to suppress statements he made to Altoona police while dealing with drug withdrawal symptoms.

Isiah S. Payne, 34, testified Tuesday in Blair County Court that when he was in police custody, being transported from Delaware to Altoona, he ingested a 30 mg Percocet tablet hidden in the waistband of the prison-issued pants he was wearing.

“It took the edge off a little,” Payne testified.

But that relief was wearing off, he said, as he was being questioned by Altoona police officers about the May 28, 2020, deaths of Natalie Washington, 52, of Altoona, and Mikal Jackson-Stevenson, 28, of Philadelphia. They were found shot dead inside Washington’s residence on the 2600 block of Beale Avenue.

Payne, who is slated for trial in December, is accused of shooting both because of a drug-selling dispute, based on evidence and on statements that he and co-defendant Onya Lewis of Gallitzin provided to police.

In court Tuesday, defense attorney Richard Corcoran challenged the legality of Payne’s statements to police.

In a hearing before Judge Timothy M. Sullivan, Payne testified that when he was arrested, he was taking about 10 to 12 Percocet pills a day that he regularly bought on the street. Failure to take Percocet, Payne said, would leave him irritable and unable to concentrate.

In a pretrial motion, Corcoran is asking Sullivan to recognize that Payne was under the influence of withdrawal symptoms when he was interrogated on July 15, 2020, by the officers.

The officers, however, told Sullivan that they didn’t see evidence of Payne’s withdrawal symptoms.

“(Payne) was very coherent,” said Derrick Tardive, who worked at that time for the Altoona Police Department.

Detective Sgt. Shane Strobel said he watched Payne sign a document waiving his Miranda rights after agreeing to speak with police.

“He was calm,” Strobel said. “He answered every question we had.”

District Attorney Pete Weeks and First Assistant District Attorney Nichole Smith advised Sullivan that he will have access to a transcript of Payne’s interview with police, in addition to an audio/video recording police made.

Corcoran has also raised additional challenges on Payne’s behalf that Sullivan is expected to review.

The defense attorney pointed out that his client was arrested in Delaware on July 10, 2020, purportedly on the basis of an arrest warrant issued through Magisterial District Judge Ben Jones’ office on June 26, 2020. But a review of online court records, according to Corcoran, show no entry of any arrest warrant on June 26, 2020.

Court documents show Payne was housed at the Howard R. Young Correctional Institution in Wilmington, Del., from July 10 to 15, 2020, when he was transported to Altoona and questioned at police headquarters. He has since been an inmate at the Blair County Prison.

Payne’s co-defendant, Lewis, is also attempting to challenge the second-degree murder and related charges that Altoona police filed against her in connection with the double homicide.

Chief Public Defender Russ Montgomery, who raised several challenges on Lewis’ behalf, notified Sullivan on Tuesday that because of a recent discovery, he and his office cannot represent Lewis.

Sullivan subsequently allowed Montgomery to withdraw as Lewis’ attorney and indicated that a replacement attorney will be appointed.

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

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