Man, 83, Accused of Striking Wife in Head With Hammer

By Raymond McCaffrey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Alma Payne managed to call 911 Monday night while the assailant was still in her Columbia home, according to court records. "I'm dead," the 81-year-old woman said. "He's got a hammer."

Police said the man with the hammer was her 83-year-old husband, Calvin Ralph Payne. He was held without bond yesterday after being charged with attempted first- and second-degree murder and first- and second-degree assault, said Sherry Llewellyn, a Howard County police spokeswoman.

Alma Payne was taken by helicopter Monday to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where she remained in serious but stable condition yesterday, police said. She had been struck in the head, apparently with the hammer, police said.

John Romaine, a neighbor, said Alma Payne told him about 18 months ago that she and her husband were separating. She moved out but later returned, he said. They "both seemed like nice people," he said.

Authorities have offered no motive for a crime so bloody that, according to charging documents, officers believed "the victim was dead" when they arrived at the house in the 6200 block of Satinwood Drive shortly before 8 p.m.

Arriving about two minutes after the 911 call, officers looked through a window and saw "a man carrying an unknown shiny object in his hand, walking from the first level to the second level," the documents said.

Police "knocked repeatedly at the front door." When no one answered, they entered and found Alma Payne "lying on the floor of the master bedroom in a pool of blood," the documents said. Because they believed she was dead, the officers "were instructed to back out of the residence" and wait for a special tactical unit, the documents said.

Tactical officers later found Calvin Payne "sitting on the toilet in the master bathroom holding a large knife in his hand," the documents said. He also had "blood on his clothing, face, head, and hands," the documents said.

Police obtained a search warrant and found "large pools of blood throughout the master bedroom" and "a hammer lying on the dresser in the master bedroom," the documents said.

Staff researcher Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.

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