Two Ohio men accused of beating a 16-year-old black boy to death in an apparent drug robbery gone bad were arraigned Tuesday and could be facing the death penalty, WHIO reports.
Michael A. Geldrich, 36, and Michael J. Watson, 39, were charged with aggravated robbery and murder. Judge Rupert Ruppert set the bond at $1 million and told the two men that the case could go to a grand jury, and based on their findings, could become a death penalty case.
According to a sworn affidavit signed by Franklin Detective Jeff Stewart, Geldrich and Watson planned the robbery of Dione Payne, 16, of Dayton, Ohio, who had been staying at Geldrich’s house, WHIO reports.
"During the robbery Geldrich struck the male victim (later identified as Payne) with a table leg, fists, stomped the male with his boots and repeatedly struck the male victim’s head against the floor," Stewart said in the affidavit obtained exclusively by WHIO.
A police report obtained by WHIO claims that the one of the two men dumped an unconscious Payne in a wheelchair and pushed him into the emergency room at Atrium Medical Center in Middletown around 10:30 a.m. Sunday and then quickly fled the area, WHIO reports.
Hospital personnel said that Payne had "heavy damage to his head and was bleeding from his ears," according to the police report obtained by WHIO. He was in critical condition and appeared to have “heavy damage done to his chest from what appeared to be someone striking him repeatedly.”
Payne was transferred to Miami Valley Hospital, where he would be pronounced dead.
Authorities believe that Payne was in Franklin, Ohio, to sell narcotics when he was robbed and beaten.
Payne’s mother insisted that he never did drugs or drank alcohol.
"He never met a stranger," Tamiko Payne said during a phone interview with WHIO. She thinks being a trusting person may have had something to do with her son's death.
Tamiko Payne told WHIO that her son was a good student who loved science and played drums for a drill team when he was younger.
Some of Payne’s family believe that race played a factor in Dione's death, but Franklin Police Chief Russ Whitman issued a statement Tuesday saying, “there is no evidence whatsoever” that the beating of Payne was racially motivated, WHIO reports.
"All evidence points to the crime being drug-related," Whitman said in the statement. "Any suggestion that this is a 'hate crime' or racially motivated is not based upon actual evidence."
Read more at WHIO.