Dione Payne: Michael Geldrich guilty in beating death of 16-year-old

One of three men accused of beating a 16-year-old to death over drug money will spend the next 22 years of his life behind bars after striking a deal with the prosecution.

Michael Geldrich, 36, of Franklin pleaded guilty Thursday to aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, kidnapping and tampering with evidence in relation to the December 1, 2013 beating death of 16-year-old Dione Payne.

A charge of rape and a second count of kidnapping will be dismissed if Geldrich testifies against co-defendants Michael Watson, 40, and Adam Patrick, 30, Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell said in a release. Patrick is only charged with complicity to the aggravated robbery.

The prosecution argued that Geldrich allowed the Dayton, Ohio teen stay at his Vernon Street residence so he could sell drugs. In exchange for the place to stay Payne supplied Geldrich with drugs, Fornshell said.

Fornshell said Geldrich became dissatisfied with his share of the money, so he and Watson decided to rob Payne.

The two men are accused of viciously attacking the teen with a wooden table leg, stripping him to look for drugs and sexually assaulting him, according to the prosecution.

After the beating, Geldrich drove Payne to Atrium Medical Center and left him there without providing any identifying information to hospital personnel, Fornshell said.

Payne was later flown to Miami Valley Hospital where he died from his injuries.

Investigators say they were led to Geldrich a few days after the crime thanks to hospital surveillance footage and tips from the public who saw the video after it was publicly distributed.

During a search of Geldrich’s home, police say they found both Geldrich and one of his two co-defendants Michael Jay Watson, 39, as well as physical evidence including blood, duct tape and a pillowcase that had been placed over Payne’s head, Fornshell said.

Payne’s family issued the following statement Thursday through the Warren County Prosecutor’s Office:

“We are grateful to the Franklin Police Department and the Warren County Prosecutor’s Office for their work on this case, and are very satisfied with today’s plea agreement,” the statement reads. “Because the case against the other defendants is still ongoing, we will not make any further statements at this time.”

Geldrich will be sentenced at a later date after the prosecution of his co-defendants.

Geldrich is expected to receive an agreed sentence of 22 years to life in prison if he continues to cooperate, according Fornshell. The sentence is contingent on Geldrich's willingness to cooperate in the prosecution of his co-defendants.

Watson is scheduled for trial on Aug. 11, 2014. Patrick’s trial date hasn’t been set.

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