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Berkeley Springs man sentenced in fire pit killing

Man convicted in 2004 slaying of Keese Bare gets 14 to 75 years

Man convicted in 2004 slaying of Keese Bare gets 14 to 75 years

June 10, 2008|By TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. -- The man convicted of second-degree murder in the 2004 killing of Keese Bare was sentenced Monday by 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Gina M. Groh in Morgan County Circuit Court.

Jason Payne, 26, of Berkeley Springs, received a sentence of 14 to 75 years, which includes the murder conviction, a prior conviction and other convictions unrelated to the 2004 crime.

Payne received the maximum sentence of 40 years for second-degree murder, plus an additional five years for a prior conviction of armed robbery and wanton endangerment in 2001.

Groh also sentenced Payne to a maximum of 30 years for two breaking-and-entering convictions and one grand larceny conviction on April 22.

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The crimes were committed Nov. 21, 2006, Morgan County Prosecuting Attorney Debra MH McLaughlin said.

Payne will be eligible for parole in 2022, according to Dan James, Morgan County's assistant prosecuting attorney.

"Payne received almost the same sentence that one would receive with a first-degree consecutive sentence with mercy," James said.

Payne and two other men were charged with killing and burning the body of Keese Bare, 27, at a Potomac River campsite in September 2004. Bare's remains were not found until 2006.

The remains were identified by a Smithsonian Institution forensic anthropologist who testified during Payne's trial that he had 1,368 bone fragments with which to work.

Payne also was charged with conspiracy to commit murder, but the jury found him not guilty on that charge.

Two other men are charged in Bare's death.

Vernon Kerns, 25, of Berkeley Springs was charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit the crime, and Jerome W. Smith, 24, of Frederick County, Va., was charged with first-degree murder. They are being held at Eastern Regional Jail in Martinsburg, W.Va.

Kerns' trial is scheduled for Sept. 16.

Payne cried when he spoke to Bare's family members in the courtroom.

"I can't say I killed your family member. I didn't. I wish I could give an explanation, but I can't. I could have come forward sooner," he said.

In between sobs, Payne told the judge that he did not want his family in court Monday because he was embarrassed.

"I may have been in trouble before, but I'm not a killer," he said.

Bare's mother, Carol Beasley, and his stepmother, Robin Bare, asked the court not to give Payne any mercy and to impose the maximum sentence.

"This was the act of a monster - the devil himself," Beasley said.

After Payne's sentence was read, his attorney, B. Craig Manford, told Groh that he would file for an appeal.

Payne maintains his innocence, and he testified that he watched Kerns and Smith kill Bare but did not try to stop them.

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