Turtle Creek man charged with killing neighbor

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A Turtle Creek man has been charged with killing his neighbor, who died after he told police he had been punched in the head.

Danny Washington, 30, faces one count of homicide in the July death of James Payne Sr., 58.

Mr. Payne called Turtle Creek police about 9 p.m. July 25 to report that his next-door neighbor, Mr. Washington, had assaulted him.

According to a criminal complaint filed by Allegheny County police, Mr. Payne told officers he heard an argument between Mr. Washington and a woman and attempted to break it up. Mr. Washington walked over and punched Mr. Payne in the face several times, causing him to fall backward and land on an iron railing, breaking it, police said. Mr. Payne declined medical treatment.

The next morning, his wife and son called 911 to report that they were unable to wake him.

A doctor at Forbes Regional Hospital told police Mr. Payne had a subdural hematoma and “there was a severe brain misalignment,” according to the complaint.

Police said they arrested Mr. Washington — whose house has been the site of drug complaints — on charges of aggravated assault and other crimes.

Doctors told Mr. Payne's family he probably would not survive, and they removed him from life support July 27.

The Allegheny County medical examiner’s office said Mr. Payne died of blunt force trauma to the head and ruled his death a homicide.

In the days that followed, investigators listened to calls Mr. Washington made from the Allegheny County Jail.

During one call, he and another person discussed news coverage of the man’s death, which made it seem as if Mr. Washington and another person had been fighting. “That ain't how it happened,” police quoted Mr. Washington as saying.

They quoted him as telling his girlfriend that Mr. Payne threatened to kill him and that the incident was an accident.

Liz Navratil: lnavratil@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1438 or on Twitter @LizNavratil.


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