No bail for suspect in slaying of NU student

Cornell Smith
Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe
Cornell Smith, who is accused of killing Northeastern University student Rebecca Payne spoke with his lawyer before his arraignment today.

Nicholas and Virginia Payne today saw for the first time the man who allegedly murdered their only child.

Cornell Smith, who allegedly killed 22-year-old Rebecca Payne on May 20, 2008, was arraigned on first-degree murder charges in Suffolk Superior Court. Clerk Magistrate Gary Wilson ordered him held without bail.

Virginia Payne said it was “heart-wrenching ... to be looking at that face, the reason [my daughter] is not here.”


Prosecutor Ian Polumbaum said Rebecca Payne was a victim of mistaken identity, that Smith had had a fistfight with someone a few days earlier who resembled Payne from a distance.

Get Fast Forward in your inbox:
Forget yesterday's news. Get what you need today in this early-morning email.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

He said that on the day she died, Payne worked at Legal Seafoods, walked home to her apartment, and was there around 2:30 a.m. when Smith climbed up a balcony, found his way into her apartment, shot her multiple times, and left.

The Paynes are Connecticut residents. Their daughter was a Northeastern University student  who was nearing the end of her collegiate career and hoping to launch a professional career as athletic trainer.

Defense attorney Jeffrey Karp said his client was not the shooter, that he was a victim of mistaken identity himself.

Prosecutors have said previously that Smith and an unidentified man arrived at Rebecca Payne’s Parker Hill Avenue apartment complex in Mission Hill, driven by 55-year-old Michael Balba. While Balba smoked crack in the car, the other man waited outside the building and Smith went inside looking for someone else who lived in the building. Instead, he found Rebecca Payne. Neighbors heard screams and multiple gunshots, but no one called police. Her body was discovered hours later when neighbors saw the door ajar, the Globe reported this morning.


In May, Balba pleaded not guilty to four counts of perjury in the case and was ordered held on $100,000 bail.