in 1983 murder
by Seth Hemmelgarn
The trial of a bisexual man accused of murdering another man in 1983 began this week in San Francisco Superior Court.
DNA, the testimony of a woman who says defendant William Payne admitted the killing, and even Payne's sexuality were among the topics that came up Monday, September 10 as the trial opened before Superior Court Judge Andrew Cheng.
Payne, 48, has been charged with first-degree murder during the course of sodomy in the death of Nikolaus Crumbley, 41, who was found dead in McLaren Park with his pants and underwear below his knees. The cause of death was ligature strangulation.
Payne had been questioned as early as 1984 in the death. Police arrested him in January 2012 after matching DNA from Crumbley's body to him.
In his opening statements Monday, Assistant District Attorney Michael Swart said, "This case is about a man who manipulates his way with his victims," getting them "into a seemingly safe situation" to achieve "his criminal purpose." One way was "under the guise of having sexual relations," Swart said.
Swart said the evidence would show that Crumbley, who appeared to be visiting San Francisco at the time he was killed, was found early in the morning of November 16, 1983 with "bruising around his entire body." He had no belt or wallet, and the American Express card that he'd used was missing. Swart mentioned that two men, who apparently haven't been identified, had been seen pushing Crumbley's rental car into Oakland's Lake Merritt.
The medical examiner's office took rectal swabs from Crumbley, but because of a lack of DNA testing technology, the "case was quickly at a standstill," Swart said.
Then, in 1984, Payne admitted the killing to Demetrice Enis, and later sexually assaulted and beat her, Swart said. After that incident, San Francisco homicide inspectors asked Payne about Crumbley's killing, but he denied knowing about it, Swart said.
Then, DNA from swabs ordered in 2003 was matched to Payne, Swart said.
"They found his sperm in such large amounts" that Payne "was the last person to have sex with Nikolaus Crumbley, and therefore, the person that murdered Nikolaus Crumbley," Swart said.
He also said Payne's DNA wasn't found in Crumbley's underwear, and if the men had had consensual sex, Crumbley's underwear would have been pulled up and there would have been "leakage" leaving Payne's DNA in the underwear.
There was DNA from a "minor" contributor who'd been "an earlier consensual partner" of Crumbley, Swart said.
"This case is not about somebody's sexuality," Swart said.
Deputy Public Defender Kwixuan Maloof began his opening remarks by showing jurors a slide that said, "No more secrets, William Payne is bisexual!!!"
Payne "has lived a secret bisexual lifestyle," Maloof said of his client, who's been married, has children, and has previously told police he'd never had any sexual relations with another man. He said that secret was partly the reason for the proceedings against Payne, because it makes him "look suspicious," so the secrets would end.
The evidence points to someone else, Maloof said, but he hasn't been able to provide the identity of who is responsible for Crumbley's death.
He said "young Billy" and Crumbley met at the old Frenchy's shop, which sold gay pornography and other items. From there, they walked to the Atherton Hotel, where Crumbley was staying, and had sex. A couple days later, at the old Pendulum bar in the Castro, Payne heard that Crumbley had been murdered and that his body had been dumped in McLaren Park, Maloof said.
"Imagine hearing someone you recently had sex with was murdered, and you can't tell anyone how you know," because it would have revealed Payne's orientation, Maloof said.
He also discussed two men pushing Crumbley's car into Lake Merritt. A witness said the men ran away and disappeared, he said, and Crumbley's blood was found in the car. Palm prints and fingerprints on the car, which was only partially submerged, didn't match Payne, Maloof said.
He also said jurors would hear testimony that semen can remain in the rectum for up to almost three days, and that semen from at least two men other than Crumbley and Payne was found in Crumbley's underwear.
Under questioning by Swart, Enis, 46, testified that Payne admitted to her that he had "robbed and killed a guy and dumped him in McLaren Park." She said she told police, but apparently nothing happened.
Then, in September 1984, upset about a breakup with his girlfriend (another woman), Payne again mentioned the killing, Enis said. She said after Payne kissed her and she told him, "I didn't come here for that," he beat her, threatened to rape and kill her, and choked her with a belt.
Payne pleaded guilty to assaulting Enis, Maloof acknowledged, but during his cross-examination of her, he worked to pick apart Enis's testimony.
Maloof plans to have Payne testify. The trial is expected to take about two to four weeks. If convicted, Payne could be sentenced to life without parole.