St. Thomas teen charged with murder of teacher will be tried as an adult
Published: January 3, 2014
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ST. THOMAS - The teenager who is accused of robbing, shooting and killing a 30-year old elementary school teacher in 2012 now is facing murder charges as an adult.
V.I. police re-arrested Rajesh Maharaj, 18, on Monday in connection with the death of David Payne Jr. on Sept. 7, 2012.
Maharaj, a 12th-grader at Ivanna Eudora Kean High School, initially was arrested Oct. 11 and charged as a minor with his name being concealed and the case being handled in V.I. Family Court.
After a motion, however, from the V.I. Attorney General's Office to charge Maharaj as an adult, his case now will be handled in V.I. Superior Court.
Maharaj is facing charges of first-degree murder, which carries a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment.
He also is facing charges of second-degree murder, first-degree assault, third-degree assault, conspiracy to murder, aiding and abetting, first-degree robbery, grand larceny, possession of a firearm during a crime of violence and possession of an unlicensed firearm during a crime of violence, according to the affidavit.
Maharaj appeared in court Thursday before V.I. Superior Court Judge Adam Christian, who advised Maharaj of his rights.
Court documents list the accounts of several witnesses, including Maharaj. None of the accounts paints a clear picture of what took place Sept. 7, 2012, the night that the 30-year-old teacher was robbed, shot and killed.
Early police reports state that Payne had just arrived home when he was shot several times, once through his head and once through his rib cage, with his left arm also being severely injured by shrapnel.
Several pieces of Payne's gold jewelry was missing when he was found lying in a pool of blood on his front porch.
According to the affidavit written by Det. Jose Allen, when first questioned, Maharaj said that he was not at the scene of the crime. In later statements to police though, Maharaj admitted that he had been outside Payne's house the night of the shooting.
According to the affidavit, the incident stemmed from a run-in three days before between Maharaj and Payne. Maharaj was smoking marijuana, and Payne came up to him and told him not to, Allen wrote.
Maharaj disposed of the marijuana, Allen wrote, but then Maharaj was approached by two friends, Koi Smith and Malakai George, who questioned Maharaj about why Payne had told Maharaj what to do.
The following day, Maharaj and two other men - the affidavit does not state who - met another man, Malik Caines, who showed the men a shortcut to Payne's house, according to the affidavit. Payne lived only a few houses from Caines, Allen wrote.
Then, on Sept. 7, Maharaj was at George's house, according to the affidavit, when someone called "George" asked the two if they were still "going to do that thing."
The three men, one of them in possession of a handgun, then walked towards Payne's house and stood outside, Allen wrote.
While it is unclear when Payne saw the men, where they were and how they approached Payne based on the affidavit, it is clear that he attempted to flee.
"Payne began to run back towards the house and as Payne was jumping over his balcony, he was shot to the head while in mid-air. The head shot went 'straight-through.' Maharaj accurately described the head shot," Allen wrote.
Maharaj admitted to having a handgun that night, and to firing seven shots, according to the affidavit.
While no witnesses identified Maharaj at the scene of the crime the night that it occurred, one did state that he or she saw Maharaj and two other men walking up and down the hill near Payne's home two days before the incident, according to the affidavit.
The witness said that he thought the three men were unusual and suspicious, the affidavit said.
Another witness heard gunfire, and saw a man running from Payne's house toward Caines's house before he disappeared over a fence, the affidavit said.
The second witness saw another man driving quickly towards where the first disappeared over the fence, appearing to be picking someone up, the affidavit said.
Until further notice, Maharaj will be held at the Bureau of Corrections with bail set at $500,000.
His family sat in the courtroom behind him Thursday as Payne's family sat on the other side of the room.
Payne's family since his death has publicly rallied for police to solve the case. Using the slogan "Justice for David Payne," the family held a remembrance gathering last summer in his honor.
The family also has been in contact with police and attorneys at the V.I. Attorney General's Office.
Assistant Attorney General Sigrid Tejo-Sprotte is prosecuting the case and attorney Clive Rivers is defending Maharaj.
- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.