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Prosecutors Drop Murder Case Against 96-Year-Old Colorado Man Whose ‘Continued Delusions’ Mean He’ll Never Be Competent to Stand Trial

Okie Payne appears in a mugshot.

Okie Payne.

Authorities have agreed to dismiss murder charges against a 96-year-old assisted living resident accused of shooting and killing a facility employee after medical experts said he would likely never be competent to stand trial, a number of Denver-area television stations and newspapers reported Wednesday. Okey Payne had previously faced one count of first-degree murder for allegedly killing 40-year-old Ricardo Medina-Rojas in February 2021.

As previously reported by Law&Crime, prosecutors said that Payne on Feb. 3, 2021 fatally shot Medina-Rojas, who was the maintenance director at Legacy at Lafayette Assisted Living. The shooting came after Payne had reportedly accused the staff of drugging him and stealing his money; the authorities found those accusations to be baseless.

Payne is accused of pulling the trigger in the lobby of the facility and then threatening others who tried to help the victim. According to the Associated Press, Payne waved a pistol around, resulting in two additional counts of menacing with a weapon.

Defense attorneys reportedly filed paperwork recently to argue that Payne was likely to never be deemed competent to stand trial.

According to articles by Denver NBC affiliate KUSA, two doctors said the defendant “suffered from delusions related to a neurocognitive disorder.”

“Such disorders are usually irreversible and progressive,” a prosecution court filing added, per KUSA.

The Boulder County District Attorney’s Office did not push back against a defense request to toss the case.

“The law requires the court to dismiss the case when the prosecution cannot overcome the doctors’ determination that he is incompetent,” DA Michael Dougherty said in a statement obtained by both the NBC and FOX affiliates.  “The doctors concluded the defendant’s continued delusions and severe mental condition are related to his advanced age and a neurocognitive illness that will not be reversed with medication and treatment.”

“The defendant belongs in the secured facility at the State Hospital for the rest of his natural life,” the statement continued.  “The Lafayette Police Department did an excellent job with the investigation into this incredibly tragic case. Okey Payne committed a brutal and unjustified murder of an innocent victim who was a loving father and husband.  Sadly, the victim’s family had believed this would be the outcome. They are striving to cherish the memories of Mr. Medina-Rojas.”

The defendant remains locked up at Pueblo state hospital, KUSA added.  FOX affiliate KDVR indicated that the incarceration would be lifelong for Payne.

A GoFundMe campaign created for the Medina-Rojas family raised nearly $20,000.

On the fundraiser page, one person remembered the victim as “an all-time winner” who was “not just a maintenance man” at the facility where he was gunned down.

“He loved everybody and he is loved by everybody,” said the quote attributed to Stan Lozinski.  “Anytime a resident had a problem with their home – whether it was changing a light bulb or something not working, he was there for them. He was a remarkable guy. He wouldn’t steal nothing from nobody! He’d rather give you something than take it. There’s nothing he wouldn’t do for anyone here.”

As Law&Crime previously noted, the victim’s heart was donated to a recipient as an anatomical gift.

Jerry Lambe contributed reporting.

[image via mugshot]

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Aaron Keller holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University. He is a former anchor and executive producer for the Law&Crime Network and is now deputy editor-in-chief for the Law&Crime website. DISCLAIMER:  This website is for general informational purposes only. You should not rely on it for legal advice. Reading this site or interacting with the author via this site does not create an attorney-client relationship. This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. Speak to a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice and representation relevant to your situation.