City police detectives broke a five-month old murder case with the arrests of three adults and one juvenile. The four suspects are accused of murdering Curtis Payne, 30, at his home at 2357 S. Dollison Ave. on Feb. 11. Tyler Keithley, 19; Jeremiah Devaliti, 18; and Kearstain Sleeth, 24 all face second-degree murder, first-degree burglary and armed criminal action charges for Payne's death.
"I was crushed that my son left here so soon, because he had a whole life ahead of him. I was very crushed. I'm still crushed. I'm still struggling with it," said Janice Skiffer, the mother of the victim.
The family of 30-year-old Curtis Payne remains in shock six months after the shooting death of their loved one. Payne had just moved to Springfield and was working two jobs to provide for his daughter.
"Curtis was a sweet guy, he was a gentleman, he was a person who would help you do anything," Skiffer said.
The charge against the 16-year-old boy was not announced but, under Missouri law, a judge could later certify him to stand trial as an adult. The probable cause statements against the adults say the juvenile is the one who fired the first shots at Payne after the three men kicked in the door of the home to confront Payne. The probable cause statement says the group went to the home because Sleeth told the others that Payne assaulted her.
On the night of Payne’s death, his uncle called 9-1-1 to say the home was being burglarized. When officers arrived, they found Payne dead from multiple gunshot wounds. Besides the uncle, children were at home when Payne was shot.
"My son came and woke me up saying, 'I heard something up front.' I jumped up, then I heard two gunshots, pop pop," said Victor Lowery, Payne's uncle.
Payne's relatives said they are still grieving, and they do not recognize any of the suspects.
"I hope these people pay dearly for what they have done to my son. I hope they pay to the fullest," Skiffer said.
In February, police called the homicide a “targeted” act.
“If it were something that occurred out in public somewhere and there was no reason to believe there is a relationship between the suspect and victim, it would be a different situation. But we have reason to believe there is some relationship there and this was done intentionally against this person for some reason, and we are just trying to determine now what that reason is,” said Springfield Police Lt. Tad Peters in February.
"There is not a reason to be concerned that there is a random shooter out there. We have every reason to believe there is a specific relationship between these two people and that's what resulted in this shooting."