A 23-year-old former Army medic took the witness stand yesterday in Prince George's County Circuit Court to testify that his mother tried to kill him last October after he accused her of stealing nearly $11,000 of his Army wages.

Charles G. Payne testified that he had asked his mother, Racheal H. Payne, to repay money that he had sent home to his bank while stationed in West Germany but that was missing from his account. Several days later, after an argument over the money, she shot him in the back of the neck with a handgun as he bent to tie his shoes, he said. A bullet that lodged below his ear, behind the right side of his jaw, was later removed.

Racheal Payne, 45, a former caterer who lives in Seat Pleasant, is on trial for attempted murder, assault with intent to murder, felony theft and unlawful shooting. She has pleaded not guilty.

"I had put my right shoe on and was putting on my other shoe when I heard a shot," said Payne, now a Washington resident. "I stood up and saw her about two feet from me, and she fired one or two more times.

"Her face had a contorted look; her eyes were enraged. I had never seen that look before. I fell and said, 'Mama, I'm sorry.' She said, 'No, you're not.' "

Mother and son sat less than four feet apart during the court proceedings but did not look at each other.

Charles Payne, who nervously shook his leg but spoke in a steady voice during 90 minutes of testimony, said the dispute with his mother began when he returned home from an Army base in Mannheim, West Germany, on Oct. 3, 1984, about three weeks before the shooting.

Every month for 26 months, Payne said, $390 of his Army wages was automatically deposited in an account at Suburban Bank in Prince George's County. He said he had not authorized a second party to have access to the account.

When he returned home, he said, his mother told him she had accumulated debts and the state of Maryland had "frozen" his money until the debts were paid. She said she was going to see a lawyer to get the situation straightened out.

"I believed in her," Payne said. "This is my mother, not someone off the street."

He said he continued to believe his mother until he checked his account two weeks later and found it had only $77.90.

He later asked his mother about the discrepancy, raising his voice "slightly," Payne said.

"I didn't exactly accuse her, but I knew it was her [who had taken the money]," he said.

A few days later, on Oct. 22, 1984, the shooting occurred after another argument, Payne testified.

Payne said Suburban has since repaid him the missing money.

Defense attorney Joe Finlayson said he plans to call on Racheal Payne today to testify that she shot her son in self-defense.