A man accused in the strangling death of another man in San Francisco’s McLaren Park nearly 30 years ago pleaded not guilty to murder charges today.
William Payne, 47, was arrested Monday for the killing of 41-year-old Nikolaus Crumbley, of Killeen, Texas, who was found dead at the intersection of John Shelley Drive and Mansell Street on Nov. 16, 1983, police and prosecutors said.
Payne, who was a teenager at the time of the crime, was identified as a suspect decades after the murder when DNA evidence linked him to the killing.
During an autopsy, a swab of Crumbley’s rectum was taken that was tested by the San Francisco crime lab in 2004. The test found semen that was matched to Payne in the state Department of Justice’s DNA database in 2009, according to the arrest warrant affidavit for Payne.
A $5 million arrest warrant was issued for Payne’s arrest and he was found on Monday at Walden House, a substance abuse and mental health treatment center where he was living at 890 Hayes St., police said.
Payne’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Kwixuan Maloof, argued in court today that his client’s bail should be lowered from $5 million because he is a family man with four children, including a 9-year-old and 15-year-old.
Maloff said Payne was initially questioned by investigators after Crumbley’s death and “cooperated with police and never fled San Francisco” in the 28-plus years since the killing.
But prosecutor Michael Swart noted that Payne might not have been able to flee because “he’s been in prison or county jail most of the time.”
Payne’s previous convictions include kidnapping for the purpose of sexual assault in 1986, robbery in 1992, DUI causing bodily injury in 1998, and assault causing great bodily injury in 2008, Swart said.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Ulmer decided to keep the bail at $5 million.
Swart said outside of court after the hearing that prosecutors plan to bring up an allegation of sodomy in the case.
Defendants convicted of committing sodomy during a murder are eligible for the death penalty, although whether the district attorney’s office will seek the death penalty in Payne’s case is ultimately up to District Attorney George Gascon, Swart said.
Two members of Payne’s family, identified by Maloof as his sister and father, attended this morning’s hearing but declined to speak to reporters afterward.
Payne will return to court Friday to set a date for a preliminary hearing.
Photo of Nikolaus Crumbley: SFPD
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News