BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. — A murder case against a 96-year-old man has been dismissed after the man allegedly shot and killed an assisted living facility employee in February 2021, according to the Boulder County District Attorney's Office.
Okey Payne, who was 95 at the time of the crime, lived in his own apartment at Legacy Assisted Living of Lafayette. Police said on Feb. 3, 2021, he shot Ricardo Medina-Rojas, 44, an employee at the facility, in the head. After the shooting, Lafayette police said two other people at the facility attempted to render aid to the victim, but Payne pointed the weapon at them. Payne was then taken into custody and Medina-Rojas died at the hospital later that day.
Payne claimed that employees at Legacy were stealing money from him, but his claims — which were investigated by Lafayette police and Adult Protective Services — were unsubstantiated, according to an arrest affidavit. Payne told police that staff at the nursing home had previously confiscated his guns, which aren't allowed in the facility. A housekeeper said Payne had carried the pistol in a bag attached to his walker. In the affidavit, police noted that Payne was "clear-headed, lucid and he provided detailed information regarding this incident," but a housekeeper said he had grown paranoid.
Payne was formally charged with two counts of first-degree murder and felony menacing with a weapon on Feb. 10, 2021. By mid-August, a doctor filed his competency report with the court, where he stated that Payne was incompetent to proceed and had a "major neurocognitive disorder, with psychotic symptoms" that was likely irreversible and progressive. On multiple other occasions, he was found incompetent to proceed, most recently on Jan. 24, 2022.
With this information, the prosecutors spoke with the family of Medina-Rojas about the situation, according to court documents released Wednesday.
"The victim’s family shared that they had believed this would be the outcome," the documents read. "They are striving to cherish the memories of Mr. Medina-Rojas, rather than focus on the criminal prosecution of the murderer."
On Wednesday, District Attorney Michael Dougherty reiterated that doctors concluded that Payne has a severe mental condition and delusions related to his age — things that could not be reversed with medication.
"Based on all the above, the People do not oppose the defendant’s motion to dismiss," Dougherty wrote in the motion to dismiss. "The defendant committed an unjustified, brutal murder. Given his age, mental condition, and competency status, the People cannot disprove the determinations by the doctors. The defendant should be held in the secured facility at CMHIP for the rest of his natural life."
Payne will spend the rest of his life in the secured geriatric unit in the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo (CMHIP).
Dougherty said the Lafayette Police Department did an "excellent job" with the investigation.
"Okey Payne committed a brutal and unjustified murder of an innocent victim who was a loving father and husband," Dougherty said.