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Three Charged With Murder in Springfield Man's Shooting Death

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Three people have been charged in the murder of Curtis Payne, who was found dead in his home in the 2000 block of S. Dollison Ave. in February.
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Three people have been charged in the murder of Curtis Payne, who was found dead in his home in the 2000 block of S. Dollison Ave. in February.

A juvenile was also arrested in connection with the murder and is currently in custody of the Greene County Juvenile Court.

According to Greene county Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson, Tyler Allen Keithley, 19, Jeremiah Devaliti, 18, and Kearstain Sleeth, 23, have been charged with second-degree murder, armed criminal action and first-degree burglary.

On Feb. 11, 2014 around 9:30 p.m., police responded to the home on S. Dollison for a report of a burglary in progress. According to court documents, the caller said someone had broken into his home and gunshots were fired. The caller went on to say someone had run from his home with a gun and his nephew, Curtis Payne, was dead.

When officers arrived to the home, they found the front door of the residence appeared to be forced open and Payne laying dead on the floor inside of the home with a gunshot wound to the chest.

An autopsy on Feb. 13 showed Payne had suffered from multiple gunshot wounds to various areas of his body, but died from the shotgun wound to his chest. The manner of death was determined as a homicide.

During the follow-up investigation, two people spoke with police and named Devaliti, Keithley and an unnamed juvenile as the people responsible for the forced entry into Payne’s home and his death.

One of those people told police they were present during a conversation in which the three talked about Payne’s death. The source also told police a friend of the suspects, Sleeth, had possibly told the three that she had been assaulted by Payne.

The source told police the subjects went to Payne’s home and forced their way in. Keithley reportedly struck Payne with a long gun described as a .22 caliber that resembled an assault rifle after they entered the residence.

The source said the juvenile reportedly shot Payne multiple times with a .380 handgun and Devaliti reportedly shot Payne one time with a shotgun while inside the residence.

The source went on to say Devaliti, Keithley, and the juvenile disposed of, or hid the guns near Fellows Lake after Payne was killed.

On July 29, Keithley was brought to police headquarters for an interview. According to court documents, Keithley confessed to being involved in the incident and provided police with information similar to what the source reported.

Keithley said the incident began when Sleeth told the group she was assaulted by a man the day before the murder. Keithley indicated he did not know the man who assaulted Sleeth, but devised a plan to go to the man’s home and “beat him up in retaliation” of the assault.

Keithley told police Sleeth drove him, Devaliti and the juvenile to the man’s house. Keithley said the group took guns because Sleeth told them the man had a pistol.

He went on to say Sleeth parked the car a street away from the home, pointed out the alleged assaulter’s house and described where his bedroom was located inside.

Keithley says they kicked the door inward and confronted the man, Payne, in his bedroom. A brief physical fight occurred and the juvenile fired several shots with a handgun at Payne. Keithley told police he was surprised when the juvenile shot Payne.

According Keithley’s statements in court documents, Payne fell to the floor and he struck him in the head with a rifle. He says Devaliti shot Payne with a shotgun close-range as he was on the floor.

The group then ran from the home and left in a vehicle driven by Sleeth. Keithley reported he went to the area of Fellows Lake with Sleeth, Devaliti, and the juvenile shortly after leaving the Payne’s residence to dispose of the guns.

He said the group later returned to Fellows Lake and collected the guns so they could move them or dispose of them in a different location.

According to Keithley, they dismantled and buried the firearms used to shoot Payne in a wooded area in Greene County.

Devaliti, Sleeth and the juvenile were also interviewed at police headquarters on July 29 after being arrested for the crimes.

According to court documents, Devaliti gave police a consistent timeline of events in the incident with what Keithley told them.

Sleeth admitted to driving the group to Payne’s home, but denied seeing any firearms before or after the incident. Police say the information she provided was inconsistent with statements given by Keithley and Devaliti.

On July 30, a .22 caliber rifle was seized as evidence from one of Devaliti’s relative’s homes. Based on information provided by Devaliti and Keithley, detectives found pieces of dismantled guns buried in a wooded area in Greene County.

Devaliti, Keithley and Sleeth are being held in the Greene County Jail. Sleeth has a $250,000 bond, while Keithley and Devaliti have a $500,000 bond.

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