Rebecca Payne: Michael Balba pleads not guilty to role in Northeastern student’s murder

Rebecca Payne's parents, Nicholas and Virginia, talk to reporters after today's court hearing.

A Billerica man allegedly seeking to fuel his cocaine addiction drove the alleged murderer of Rebecca Payne to and from her Mission Hill apartment building the night of her death.

Michael Balba, 55, pleaded not guilty in Suffolk Superior Court this morning. He was indicted on four counts of perjury for allegedly lying about what took place the night Rebecca Payne was murdered.

He was ordered held on $100,000 cash bail after he pleaded not guilty.

Payne was a senior at Northeastern University and lived off campus in an apartment in Mission Hill.
She was fatally shot in the knees and chest in May 2008.

Her accused killer, Cornell Smith, and Balba, were indicted last week for their roles in her death.

“His actions are part of the reason it took the district attorney’s office almost four years to bring charges against Cornell Smith,” Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley said.

During Balba’s arraignment, Assistant District Attorney Ian Polumbaum said Balba knew Smith because Smith would supply him with cocaine on occasion.

Polumbaum said that on the night Payne was killed, Balba called Smith and met up with him in order to obtain drugs. Smith told Balba, a truck driver and grandfather, to drive him and another person to Mission Hill and do the drugs in a nearby park, Polumbaum said.

That’s allegedly when Smith killed Payne.

Authorities today confirmed that Payne was killed in a case of mistaken identity and that she was not Smith’s intended target.

Balba then allegedly drove Smith and the other person away from the scene.

During various grand jury investigation, Balba misled jurors and said he could not remember events, authorities said.

However, Polumbaum said authorities now have cell phone record and surveillance images from cameras near the murder scene that place Balba there.

Balba’s lawyer said he is a family man who works three jobs and has two children and a grandchild that lives at home with him.


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