Rebecca Payne: Man indicted four years after murder of Northeastern student

Rebecca Payne

Two men were indicted by a Suffolk County grand jury over the weekend in connection with the murder of a Northeastern University student more than four years ago.

According to D.A. Daniel F. Conley’s office, Cornell Smith, 30, formerly of Boston, is being charged with first degree murder for the alleged shooting of Rebecca Payne in Mission Hill in 2008.

According to court reports, Smith is also being charged with armed assault in a dwelling and unlawful possession of a firearm.

The indictments also charge Michael Balba, of Billerica, with four counts of perjury for allegedly lying to a Suffolk County grand jury during the investigation into Payne’s death.

Boston Police homicide detectives arrested Balba over the weekend. He is scheduled to be arraigned in Superior Court today.

According to a release from the D.A.’s office, Payne, a Northeastern student from Connecticut, was found dead in her Parker Hill Avenue apartment on the morning of May 20, 2008.

She had been shot several times, according to police.

Residents had heard gunfire hours earlier but no one called 911, according to reports.

Conley did not provide details about the homicide or an alleged motive for Payne’s death, but said the victim did not know Smith.

“She was, in every sense, an innocent victim,” Conley said in a statement issued yesterday.

On the night of her murder in 2008, Payne had allegedly returned home from work at Legal Sea Foods and took a bus to Mission Hill before walking to her apartment.

According to reports, she was shot several times, including in the leg and chest.

After two years without answers, in 2010 police said in a statement they believed Payne was not the intended target. 

According to reports, Smith is currently serving a 12-year federal prison sentence out of state for an unrelated drug conviction.


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