New Orleans police recruit arrested in Chicago slaying

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Prospective New Orleans Police Officer Arrested For Chicago Murder

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

A man hoping to become a New Orleans police officer was instead arrested last week in connection with a 2016 homicide in Chicago.

Justin Matthew Payne, 26, is being held on a fugitive warrant in the Orleans Parish Jail, according to records. Payne is a suspect in the December 2016 slaying of Luis Pena, a 64-year-old trucking company owner.

Pena, who was Payne's former boss, was found bludgeoned to death in the office trailer of his company, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Responding officers initially thought he had been shot, but his autopsy showed that he was stabbed and beaten to death.

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Payne was a suspect in the slaying, but the case remained unsolved nearly a year later when he applied in October to become a New Orleans policeman. Beau Tidwell, a New Orleans Police Department spokesman, told The Advocate that Payne had passed the civil service exam and a criminal background check.

The trouble came when a recruiting investigator started looking into Payne's work history, The Advocate reported. One of the former employers contacted by the department tipped off Chicago homicide investigators about Payne's new career aspirations.

"Detectives with Chicago PD contacted NOPD to verify address and phone number for Payne," Tidwell told the Baton Rouge newspaper in an email. "The Chicago PD notified NOPD that Payne was a suspect in a homicide."

New Orleans investigators called Payne over to police headquarters last week, telling him they needed more paperwork from him. Chicago detectives were there to question him.

Chicago investigators told Pena’s family that Payne confessed to his slaying, the newspaper reported. Tidwell confirmed the confession.

Court records in Chicago showed that a first-degree murder warrant was issued for Payne following his arrest in New Orleans, the Sun-Times reported.

Karina Pena, one of the victim's seven children, expressed shock upon learning that the man accused of killing her father sought to become a police officer. She told The Advocate that her father fired Payne about five weeks before he was killed.

"He worked for my dad for so little (time)," Pena, 19, told the newspaper. "My dad fired him because he was lazy."

Payne became a suspect after a mechanic at her father’s trucking company identified him from surveillance footage from the crime scene, Pena told The Advocate.

She said her family is relieved that an arrest has been made because they were starting to lose hope that the case would be solved.

"I'm happy, because just the fact he confessed is a good confirmation that it was him," Pena said. "We're not worried that we were chasing after the wrong guy the whole time."

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