Sister says man slain in W.Va. was nonviolent

February 02, 2000|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The sister of a man who died following a shooting near Ranson Tuesday said she never would have imagined her brother being involved in such a dangerous situation.

Judy Brown described her brother, Earl Payton, as a friendly, nonviolent person.

If Payton realized he was in a situation that was life threatening, he would have walked away, Brown said.

"I don't even remember him being in a fight. So I don't know what went on there," Brown said.

Payton was found Tuesday lying in the living room of a friend's house at 320 Orchard Drive near Ranson with a gunshot wound to the chest, according to state police.

Police said it was difficult to determine a motive for the shooting, but they alleged it may have stemmed from an argument over $10 that Payton owed John Michael Weaver, who lived in the house.


Weaver was charged with murder and was being held Wednesday in the Eastern Regional Jail near Martinsburg.

In a statement to police, Weaver said he fired a shot into the floor in front of Payton, but told police that he was "just joking around," according to Jefferson County Magistrate Court records.

Weaver said he thought there were only two bullets in the Raven .25 caliber handgun. He told police he cleared the gun, but it fired a second time, state police said.

Payton stood up and then fell, according to court records.

Payton's body has been taken to the state Medical Examiner's office in Morgantown for an autopsy.

On Wednesday, state police served a search warrant at Weaver's residence and obtained additional evidence including a bullet and a shell casing, said Trooper Aaron Zaltzman. Police found the gun, an empty shell casing and two live rounds at the crime scene on Tuesday, according to court records.

Payton grew up in Berryville, Va., and he worked as a dump truck driver until about two years ago when heart surgery forced him to quit, Brown said. He moved to Charles Town at about that time.

He recently moved to the Winchester, Va., area to live with a girlfriend, Brown said.

Although Weaver and Payton were described as long-time friends, Brown said she did not know Weaver.

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