A Dodge County jury needed just 45 minutes to reach a guilty verdict in the trial of James English, who was charged with murder and arson in the 2009 killing of Eastman resident Ricky Payne.
Tim Vaughn, district attorney for the Oconee Judicial Circuit, said English was sentenced to life in prison on the murder conviction. The 30-year-old also drew a concurrent 10-year sentence for the arson.
English killed Payne, his neighbor in the Cottondale area of Eastman, after an argument. Both men had been drinking at another neighbor’s house April 25, 2009, Vaughn said.
English beat Payne to death, then set his body on fire.
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A pizza delivery driver in the area noticed the fire and called the fire department, but the room that Payne’s body was in sustained heavy damage.
An autopsy showed Payne had a 0.19 blood-alcohol level, and there were drugs in his system as well, Vaughn said.
Vaughn said English told others that he had beaten Payne. Witnesses later wore undercover equipment that captured English making statements that led to his arrest in May 9, 2009.
English at first told investigators that he had beaten Payne, but he said he didn’t realize he had killed him. He claimed someone else must have set the fire, but investigators had evidence that whoever had beaten Payne must have also set the fire.
“He tried the shotgun defense — he tried blaming other individuals,” Vaughn said.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.