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DA: Billerica Man Lied About 2008 Northeastern Student Murder

By Bree Sison, WBZ-TV
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BOSTON (CBS) – A Billerica man was ordered held on $100,000 cash bail Monday, charged with lying to authorities investigating the 2008 murder of a Northeastern student.

Prosecutors said 55-year-old Michael Balba lied to the Suffolk County Grand Jury during the investigation into the May 2008 shooting of 22-year-old Rebecca Payne of New Milford, Conn.

Rebecca Payne was shot to death in her off-campus apartment in Mission Hill after prosecutors say 30-year-old Cornell Smith mistook her for another woman.

payne DA: Billerica Man Lied About 2008 Northeastern Student Murder

Rebecca Payne was shot to death in Mission Hill in 2008.

“She was in every sense of the word, a completely innocent victim,” said Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley.

At Balba’s arraignment Monday in Suffolk Superior Court, prosecutors said Balba was outside Payne’s apartment as an accomplice to a drug deal the night she was killed.

He heard gunshots but did not call for help and prosecutors say he lied to the grand jury when asked about it.

“Balba’s actions are primarily a significant part of the reason it took four years to bring charges against Cornell Smith,” said Conley after the arraignment.

Smith was indicted Friday on a first-degree murder charge in Payne’s death.

Smith is in federal prison serving a 12-year sentence on an unrelated drug conviction. He will be arraigned at a later date.

Balba pleaded not guilty to the perjury charges. Payne’s parents were in the courtroom during his arraignment.

“He could easily have told the police what he knew. But he preferred his drug habit rather than report a murder,” said Virginia Payne.

The couple plans to move to Virginia’s native country in the Seychelle Islands after the two men are tried for their only child’s death.

“We think of Rebecca; the fact that she will never be with us, we will never hear her laugh, never telling us what she gets up to or her progress in life. That’s all been taken from us,” said Nicholas Payne.

Virginia Payne told WBZ NewsRadio 1030 Monday their prayers were answered over the weekend after years of frustration.

“We credit the police for the good work. They never stopped working on that case,” she said.

Balba was ordered to return to court on June 6.

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