Man indicted in '08 death of Northeastern student
BOSTON (WHDH) -- A was indicted Sunday in the 2008 shooting death of a Northeastern student.
Prosecutors say Rebecca Payne was an innocent victim when she was gunned down in her Mission Hill apartment nearly four years ago. It took years of investigation, but on Sunday law enforcement officials say the murder was a case of mistaken identity.
Cornel Smith, 30, faces charges of murder and armed home invasion after he allegedly shot Rebecca Payne, a 22-year-old Northeastern student, multiple times in her Parker Hill Avenue apartment on May 20, 2008.
Rebecca Payne was a senior from Connecticut who hoped to become an athletic trainer. She loved sports like soccer and tennis.
“It’s been a tough road. It’s been a long and tedious investigation, but a good one and a thorough one,” said Dan Conley, Suffolk County District Attorney.
Boston police arrested 55-year-old Michael Balba of Billerica (pictured to the left) on Saturday. He is described as an acquaintance of Smith’s. He is accused of lying to the Suffolk County Grand Jury during the investigation into Rebecca Payne's death. Balba is expected to be arraigned Monday in Suffolk Superior Court.
“Balba, by committing perjury before the grand jury inhibited our investigation and for that we’re going to hold him accountable for perjury,” said Conley.
The Suffolk County District Attorney confirmed, in general, information that was available four years ago -- Rebecca Payne was an innocent victim. Sources told 7News in 2008 that Rebecca Payne had been mistaken for another resident of the building -- a woman with gang ties who looked like her and lived in an apartment with a similar number. The source said Rebecca Payne had been shot in each knee and four times in the chest.
“It appears that they were here to do harm to somebody else and Rebecca was mistaken for their intended target,” said Conley.
Rebecca Payne's family spoke out on Sunday about the indictments.
"I couldn't imagine the fear that he put into my daughter -- that night, you know," said Virginia Payne, Rebecca's mother. "I wanted to look at his face."
"We heard things from the police. We heard mistaken identity thing, but we also heard people don't want to talk," said Nicholas Payne, Rebecca's father.
Smith is currently doing a 12-year stint at an out-of-state federal prison for drug trafficking. Conley says it might take a year or two for him to be brought to Boston to face justice in the death of Payne.