Two-bit Roxbury coke dealer was out on bail on a drug charge when he allegedly gunned down a Northeastern student

Cornell SmithThe justice system gave Cornell Smith a second chance. And a third. And a fourth. And now he stands accused of murdering an innocent Northeastern student in a case of mistaken identity.

A Suffolk County grand jury indicted Smith on Friday on charges he murdered Rebecca Payne in her Parker Hill Avenue apartment in 2008 by shooting her in the knees and the chest. The Suffolk County District Attorney's office says Payne, a New Milford, CT resident who had a job at Legal Seafood, did not know Smith. Channel 7 reports police think Smith got Payne confused with another resident of the building, who looked like her - but who had some sort of gang affiliation.

The DA's office says it doesn't yet know when Smith, who lived on Hammond Street near the Northeastern campus, will be arraigned on the murder charge - in part because that will involve scheduling a flight from Wisconsin, where he's currently serving a 12 1/2 year federal sentence for cocaine trafficking for an arrest made on Stoughton Street in Dorchester three months after Payne's murder.

That sentence runs concurrently with a 12-to-15-year state sentence for a drug conviction stemming from an incident on Feb. 16, 2008.

Court records show Smith was on bail for the Feb. 16 incident when Payne's building superintendent found her body early on May 20 - several hours after nearby residents failed to call police after hearing several gunshots.

In August, three months after Payne's death, a Boston police officer watched Smith sell cocaine to somebody outside 49 Stoughton St. in Dorchester, which led to the federal drug-trafficking charge.

In 2009, he pleaded guilty to that charge in US District Court in Boston - not long after he was sentenced to 12 to 15 years in Suffolk Superior Court for the February arrest. US District Court Judge William Young then sentenced him to 12 1/2 years - as a career criminal - for the August arrest.

At his federal sentencing, assistant US Attorney Natasha Tidwell laid out Smith's criminal history:

Just from beginning at the age of 17, if not before, on his first drug offense he was sentenced to a term of two and-a-half years. He served nine months. The remainder was suspended. Shortly after his release he violated his probation, another drug offense. Served out the remainder of that term, sentenced again for a drug offense at the age of 19. In March 2004, at the age of 22, he received a sentence of three years and a day. Gets out for good conduct, comes out, reoffends in February 2008, which is the state offense for which he has just been sentenced to a term of 12 to 15 years. While he's out on bail for that offense he offends in this case.

In a memo to Young, Smith's lawyer, Paul Garrity, asked for leniency. He said Smith's life was just one bad break after another, starting with his birth to a single mother, and continuing with being surrounded by uncles and aunts with serious drug problems and drug records, a stepfather who routinely beat him, a drinking habit that began at age 8 and a coke habit he started at 13. As an adult, Garrity wrote, Smith was homeless when not incarcerated and had a long-term relationship with a woman who was herself a coke addict. Smith, Garrity wrote, sold drugs only to support his own habit:

[T]he defendant experienced a most difficult upbringing, which included significant physical abuse, and which set the stage for his own substance abuse from an early age and ultimately his engaging in criminal activity to support his dependence. The defendant had little chance to overcome the scars of this upbringing, and his efforts in substance abuse treatment have so far not been successful.

A second man, Billerica real-estate agent Michael Balba, 55, was charged with perjury for repeatedly lying to the grand jury investigating Payne's death, the DA's office says. He is scheduld for arraignment tomorrow.

Innocent, etc.



Free tagging: 



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It was mistaken identity. Looking for a similar looking woman (with "gang ties") in similar # apartment.

Wonder what the 58-year-old white Billerica dude had to do with a 'hood beef.

Wonder if...

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he had some affiliation with the muti-unit building where the killing was? Being in real estate and all.

Hood Beef?

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This sounds more like he ordered a hit.

Who wants to bet the

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Who wants to bet the real-estate guy was laundering money for drug dealers?

I'm so glad they've had information in this case

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This murder happened right after I started working near Northeastern, and it was baffling and troubling. I'm so glad that they've found someone and the family will be able to at least learn what happened and prove that their daughter was truly a victim.

Sadly, when someone becomes a victim of such an attack, people assume the victim was somehow involved with the attacker's poor life choices. I'm glad it's being proven that this poor girl was innocent.

This is complete bull....

As a youth, I was surrounded by people with substance abuse problems, experienced abuse and guess what...I'm not out killing people. This guy is crap. Why the hell is he still alive?

Dirty scumbag

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Kill yourself scumbag.....I would slap your daddy if you knew what prison he is locked-up in.....

Feel Free to Move There

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But then we'd all hear about a whiny American expat being caned for smoking in public - or not flushing a public toilet.

I was waiting for some (expletive) to say that

I'm a lifelong resident of New England. Why should I be the one who has to move halfway around the world? Why can't people in the community I'm in now have the sense to realize that we should have better laws that keep drug dealers out of our society?

Why do we keep electing pussies in this city and state? I'm serious. I want a sincere, thoughtful, academically satisfying answer from somebody as to why we can't build a society in 2012 where this guy dies at the hands of the state quickly and cheaply once it becomes obvious to all that he was selling drugs and harming people.

Because it's never that simple

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As you've stated here plenty of times before: cops and "the system" can be corrupted and are not infallible either. Thus, the "obvious to all" person you believe to be a drug-dealing murderer could potentially be innocent of this crime. It could be a totally mistaken identity. It is ironic that you are so certain that he is the man whom you think murdered that young woman, when the one thing we believe to be true is that she is dead because she looked like the intended target of a murderer's hate. Why would you want to rush to possibly commit the exact same error in judgement as a killer?

My non-definitive list of crimes I deem executable

-The non-defensive premeditated killing of another person

-All rapes

-All crimes that involve active use of a weapon against a person or persons who do not have an equal weapon (think armed robbery)

-Witness intimidation which includes evidence of a specific written or recorded threat to somebody's safety or life. I wouldn't advocate for frying somebody who merely said "if you snitch, I'll kill you." But if it can proven tangibly that somebody made such a threat to obstruct justice, they can die for all I care.

-Selling drugs on the street. I also advocate for the legalization of many drugs, but I believe that the salesperson should be somebody a little more reputable than an accused killer.

And here we go!

With people making guesses about what I believe instead of asking me. Happens with every thread. Lather, rinse, repeat.


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Are you trolling or serious?

You advocate for legalizing many drugs (which I agree with) but yet want someone who is selling drugs that are currently illegal executed for doing so?

Nobody buys street drugs that doesn't want them. Drug transactions are a victimless crime.

The guy was selling crack

That one shouldn't be legal. For Chrissakes, they put Drano in that stuff. There's no reason to have or sell that, and anybody who sells it should die.

Oh well in that case it makes total sense!

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Or not.

It's cocaine, not some magic evil potion. If you think crack is regularly cut with Drano, you've been watching too much TV. Show me a confirmed instance of drain cleaner in crack cocaine and I'll be impressed. Perhaps you're getting your drugs mixed up as crystal meth uses drain cleaner in the cooking process.

Either way, if someone wants to put garbage in their body, that's their business. The idea that someone should be put to death because they exchanged money for a substance is ridiculous. To further point out your poor reasoning, if you legalize and regulate cocaine, the issue of contaminates disappears. Keeping it illicit guarantees the incentive to cut the substance with something potentially harmful.

Uh huh

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Right. The state does much better about guilt and innocence when it comes to drug crimes than it does about murder. Let's set the bar there for killing people in the name of the state.

You didn't just ignore my actively sought to head upstream against it. Don't be a dumbass, Will.

I didn't ignore your point, Kaz

The system isn't infallible. I acknowledge. The disagreement lies in where we believe the line should be drawn...which we clearly do not see eye to eye on.

Define the crime

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I want a sincere, thoughtful, academically satisfying answer from somebody as to why we can't build a society in 2012 where this guy dies at the hands of the state quickly and cheaply once it becomes obvious to all that he was selling drugs and harming people.

So, where do you draw the line? For selling ethanol, would it be the cashier at the liquor store who gets the firing squad, the owner, the distributor, the chairman of United Distillers? For nicotine, the executive board of RJR Nabisco, or just the sales manager, or just the guy who actually sold the pack of cigs across the counter?

Ahh.. I see, you don't really mean "selling drugs and harming people," you mean "selling drugs that the corporatist state doesn't sanction."


What about this new government health care? Do I have to pay for smokers bad health?

I sincerely hope not

They brought it on themselves. Let them figure out how to deal with a malfunctioning lung.

I have several friends who smoke. Not a single one has ever blamed it on somebody else.

Also true of crack

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Is it correct that you think that people who sell crack cocaine or crystal meth, both addictive drugs that make people sick and have been widely known for decades to do so, should be put to death, but that people who sell nicotine, an addictive drug that makes people sick and has been widely known for decades to do so, should hold onto their seat on the board of directors of a big company, their house in Saddle River, their membership at the country club, etc?

The flaw with your analogy

When was the last time a tobaccohead stole from you or your neighbors to buy tobacco? Can't compare 'em to crackheads and tweakers.


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Is it your position that we should alter our laws and the way they are enforced so as to become less like the other western industrialized democracies (a.k.a., "first world countries"), which do not execute their citizens, and more like those totalitarian prison states(China) or theocratic shitholes (Iran) that do?

First world countries don't execute their citizens?

You ever hear of this place Texas? It's in America, a first world country.

In seriousness, do you know what my position is? My position is that our planet is overpopulated. Seven billion is too many. And at least we have enough food and water to go around in our part of the globe. Imagine how much worse it is in places with serial breeding and serial denial of contraceptive services. Heck, it was the cover story in the Sunday Times a couple of weeks ago. In Nigeria, their culture endorses having six or nine or even a DOZEN children!

It's my belief that overpopulation is the root of most world problems. To that end, I endorse anything that entails population control. I'm firmly pro-choice, and I'm firmly pro-death penalty. I even support an expansion of it.

You cite China and Iran. Those countries execute people for merely disagreeing with the government. Under no circumstances should we have that in this country. I think I'm a reasonable and moderate person...I'm not sure why so many of my fellow comment posters seem to believe that I'm an extreme person.

Just keep asking me questions...I have an answer for pretty much everything. It might not be the right answer, but if you want to know what I believe, please inquire.

Dude you are all over the place!

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" To that end, I endorse anything that entails population control."

You could start by offing yourself, that would be the most proactive action you could take towards your goal. That would much more impressive than advocating the state kill off those you deem unworthy.

Or, you could let people choose to ingest substances that may be harmful, thus reducing the number of people that make bad decisions through natural selection. Instead, you want the state to execute the entrepreneur, who by your previous comments is doing the hard work of providing the poison that will kill off the bad decision makers. Sounds to me like you have it backwards. If you want population control, you should flood the market with bad drugs, not punish the supplier. Logic, how does it work?

And oddly enough,

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Sweeden and Denmark have similarly low crime rates, without the whole police state thing going on.

Time for the obligatory comparison

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People in Copenhagen don't spit on the sidewalk because, well, they think that spitting on the sidewalk is disgusting, and they don't want to live in the kind of place where people spit on the sidewalk.

People in Singapore don't spit on the sidewalk because the government watches them, and threatens them with punishment.

Yeah, the sidewalk is clean in both places, but in one your neighbors are free adults, and in the other they are infantilized prisoners of the state.

RIP Rebecca

I was a NU student living near Rebecca Payne's apartment when this horrible crime occurred. I'm so glad that the DA's Office found the people responsible for taking an innocent life. My condolences to the Payne family and her friends.

Glad to know Mission Hill

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Glad to know Mission Hill "residents" will call the cops if they even see the glimmer of a red solo cup but they fail to when they hear gunshots. Fucking idiots.