Tyler Christopher Payne
Missing Since: 03/01/2006, Missing From: Tucson, Arizona Sex: Male Race: White, Date of Birth: 11/15/2001 (20), Classification: Endangered Missing, Age: 4 years old Height and Weight: 3’0, 60 pounds Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian male. Brown hair, brown eyes. Tyler has a speech impediment and a small freckle on his foot.
Circumstances of Disappearance
Tyler, his father Christopher Mathew Payne, his sister Ariana Socorro Payne, age three, and Christopher’s girlfriend Reina Irene Gonzales all resided in Tucson, Arizona. In Tucson, Arizona, at the Portofino Apartments on West 36th Street, they occupied a residence.
Jamie Marie Hallam, Tyler and Ariana’s mother, was in custody of them completely. Hallam has two more children by other men, and Christopher and Gonzales have a son named Christopher Mathew Payne Jr. who was born in 2004. With this case summary are pictures of Hallam, Christopher Sr., Gonzales, and Ariana.
Tyler was two months old when Hallam and Christopher wed in 2002, but they divorced after only a year. Christopher was supposed to pay the children’s child support, but by 2006 he had fallen about $19,000 behind. He had no parental rights to his children and a criminal history dating back to 1994 for misdemeanor offences like domestic violence and drug- and alcohol-related charges.
However, Hallam started allowing Christopher to visit the kids in December 2005 because he wanted to be a part of their lives. She gave Christopher permission to bring Tyler and Ariana for a weekend visit at the end of January 2006. He never called her back, kept coming up with reasons to keep them longer, and eventually stopped returning her calls. She made a 911 call in March to request assistance in locating her children.
CPS received an anonymous report in 2005 alleging that Hallam and her boyfriend were abusing methamphetamine and neglecting her children. The complaint was looked into and found to be unfounded, but it took until the following year for the case against Hallam to be officially closed. She admits to a history of drug abuse but claims to have been sober for two years by 2005.
CPS was consulted by the police after Hallam requested assistance from them to reclaim her children from Christopher and provided the court records proving her custody of them.
They were informed by a caseworker named Cindy Graupmann that Hallam was being investigated and wasn’t cooperating. This was false; Hallam had given the CPS investigation his full cooperation, and the case had been resolved.
In February, Christopher himself called CPS to report that Hallam had “left” the kids with him but was now attempting to get them back. Graupmann urged him to submit a petition for temporary custody despite the fact that she had never met him, had never inquired about his criminal history, and had never required him to submit to a drug test. She and her boss told the police that Tyler and Ariana would be happier living with their father.
Even though Hallam still had full custody, the drug abuse and neglect case against her had been resolved, and there is no record that Christopher even applied for custody, law enforcement decided not to take further action after speaking with CPS. As a result, Tyler and Ariana remained with their father. When a police officer did see both kids, they seemed content and in good health. Hallam didn’t run into them again.
In the 500 block of East Prince Road, Ariana’s body was discovered in a U-Store-It storage locker in February 2007. The facility manager opened the locker in early 2006 even though Christopher hadn’t paid the rent for months. However, she was so repulsed by the foul smell that she didn’t try to clean it out until February 16.
She discovered a bulky 25-gallon plastic container that had insects flying all around it. The lid came off when she threw it in the trash, and some liquid leaked out. There was a duffel bag inside the tub. The manager mentioned the tub and tote bag, the odor, and the flies to a friend that evening. Her friend speculated that a body might be inside.
On February 18, the manager called the police, who responded and discovered Ariana’s body inside the duffel bag and wrapped in a black garbage bag. Following the recovery of Ariana’s body, the police decided not to search the remainder of the dumpster and came to the conclusion that Tyler’s body had been taken away with the trash. It’s never been discovered.
Authorities believed that starvation was the cause of Ariana’s death, but a formal autopsy was unable to be performed because of how decomposed her body was. Twelve of her ribs, a vertebra, her forearm, her jaw, and one of her shoulder blades were among the numerous broken bones in her body. All of her fractures had healed to varying degrees; some had occurred as long as six weeks prior to her passing.
The body’s identification and Christopher’s connection to it took several days. He was detained by police on March 1 and accused of killing his daughter. They then accused him of killing Tyler as well. In Ariana’s case, Gonzales was also detained on one count of child abuse. She was also charged with murder and child abuse in connection with both of the children’s cases in May.
Investigators think the kids were murdered between March and September of 2006. Christopher rented the storage unit where Ariana’s body was later discovered on September 6.
A June move-in roommate later testified that she never saw Tyler or Ariana and thought they were with Hallam, but she did occasionally hear noises coming from the bedroom closet. The family’s Portofino Apartments neighbours frequently saw Christopher Jr., but they never saw Tyler or Ariana and weren’t even aware that there were two other kids residing there.
Nobody was still residing in the apartment when the police searched it. After the Payne family was kicked out in September, the property’s management was unable to find another tenant because it was in such bad shape and smelled so bad.
Authorities discovered bloodstains on the closet’s walls and floorboards, as well as hair and faeces concealed inside a hole that had been cut in the wall. The closet was stuffed to the gills with garbage. In a tiny storage shed on the balcony, there was more blood.
The fact that there were multiple victims, that the victims were children, and the “cruel, heinous and depraved manner” of the crimes were all considered aggravating factors by the prosecution in their request for the death penalty against both suspects.
At first, Gonzales defended her innocence, saying she had gone away for a week and returned to find Tyler and Ariana gone, while Christopher informed her they were back with Hallam. She was given a 22-year sentence after entering a guilty plea to two counts of second-degree murder in August 2008.
Tyler and Ariana were locked
She claimed Tyler and Ariana were locked in a closet 24 hours a day starting in June during her testimony against Christopher. She claimed that after feeding them sandwiches once a day at first, Christopher eventually stopped doing so. Gonzales acknowledged that she had seen Christopher beat the kids and that she had never reported it to the police or taken any other action to protect them.
Although Christopher Jr. was fed, taken care of, and in good health at the time of his parents’ arrests, the prosecution claimed during his 2009 trial that Christopher was addicted to heroin and had allowed Tyler and Ariana to starve to death rather than spend money on food for them.
At first, Christopher insisted he hadn’t seen the kids in years; later, he claimed they were with Hallam; and finally, he finally acknowledged they had passed away in his house. He claimed that they committed suicide and starved themselves to death after learning that they would not be returning to live with their mother.
Christopher claimed that after Ariana passed away in July, he tried to revive her for an entire day using CPR. Then, he placed her body in a trash bag and returned it to the closet with Tyler, where it remained until about a week after his passing. Ariana’s broken bones were unaccounted for, and Christopher insisted he never hit his kids.
The children had been starved, according to Gonzales, and Christopher was only guilty of failing to protect the children from her, according to his defense, which asked the jury to find him guilty of second-degree murder rather than first-degree murder. Gonzales allegedly had a drug problem in addition to having a “toxic” relationship with the other person.
In an effort to avoid the death penalty, the defence listed seventeen mitigating circumstances, primarily Christopher’s drug addiction and dysfunctional upbringing. Only a little over a year after his birth, his mother passed away. He started using drugs in junior high school and tried multiple times to stay clean. He was using heroin four or more times per day by the spring of 2006, in addition to using a variety of other illegal substances.
Christopher was found guilty by a jury in March 2009 on two counts of murder, three counts of child abuse, and two counts of hiding or discarding a body. He is waiting to be executed after receiving a death sentence.
Hallam sued CPS and the Tucson Police Department for wrongful death, claiming that their carelessness led to the deaths of her children. CPS acknowledged handling the Payne case improperly and cited a staffing issue as the cause. They paid $1,000,000 to resolve the legal dispute.
The court determined that there was insufficient evidence that the police knew or should have known that Tyler and Ariana were not safe in their father’s custody and dismissed the lawsuit against the police department in October 2010.
The Los Reales Landfill in southeast Tucson is where Tyler’s body is thought to be. A book titled Investigating the Death of Innocents was written about the case by one of the investigators, Michael Orozoco.