By April 30, 2014 Read More →

W.Va.-born jewel thief, now 83, struck again in fall

AP photo from the Charleston Daily Mail Doris Payne, seen in a Nevada jail cell in 2005, has made a career out of thievery on a grand scale. The Beckley native, now 83, was sentenced Monday for stealing a ring worth more than $22,000 from a California jewelry store just three months after serving time for another jewelry heist. Her life of crime began when she was in her 20s; by the time she was in her 30s, as seen inset, she was established as a wanted criminal.

AP photo from the Charleston Daily Mail
Doris Payne, seen in a Nevada jail cell in 2005, has made a career out of thievery on a grand scale. The Beckley native, now 83, was sentenced Monday for stealing a ring worth more than $22,000 from a California jewelry store just three months after serving time for another jewelry heist. Her life of crime began when she was in her 20s; by the time she was in her 30s, as seen inset, she was established as a wanted criminal.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Doris Payne has spent more than 60 years walking out of jewelry stores all over the world with things that didn’t belong to her, but now a California judge has ordered her to stay away from those stores.

The daughter of a West Virginia coal miner, Payne, 83, was raised in the Raleigh County community of Slab Fork. A world-renowned jewel thief, she told the Daily Mail in a 2005 interview that it all began with a little watch from a general store in Beckley when she was just a teen.

Her latest score was a $22,500 diamond ring stolen in Palm Desert, Calif., in October.

“She’s very charming and she’s very beguiling,” Payne’s attorney, Gretchen von Helms, said in a phone interview. “She looks all the world like a sophisticated lady.

“She never forced anyone to do anything … they just forget about her.”

Payne was sentenced Monday to two years in a Riverside County jail and two years probation after pleading guilty the same day to one count each of burglary and grand theft, both felonies, said John Hall, Riverside County District Attorney’s office spokesman.

Judge William Lebov also ordered Payne to pay the business $800 and any other restitution and also to stay away from all jewelry stores for the term of her sentence.

“What the judge did here was tempering punishment with compassion because of her age,” von Helms said. “She’s a low-level non-violent offender. This wasn’t a death penalty case and he couldn’t see sentencing her to a time where she could potentially die in custody.”

She said Payne, who already has spent six months in jail, is ill. Von Helms said the women’s dormitory at the Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility was pepper sprayed and that the irritating substance got into the ventilation system causing it to spread. Payne’s breathing, as a result, has been labored and she’s spent time in the jail’s infirmary.

“He took into account the taxpayers’ pocketbook,” von Helms told the Los Angeles Times. “And do we really need to incarcerate a nonviolent offender — yes, a repeat offender, that’s true — who’s ill, who has emphysema, who’s elderly?”

Payne, who already has served six months, could cut her jail time in half with good behavior. Depending on her health and the jail, she could be out a lot sooner…

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