Mother, fire investigators frustrated no charges filed despite break in 1995 cold case

Suspects identified in arson homicide case

BOONE COUNTY, Ind. - Fire investigators and a Boone County mother want to know why criminal charges have not yet been filed in a nearly 18-year old cold case.

Robbie Payne, 19, died Oct. 28, 1995 in a Whitestown, Ind. house fire.

Officials initially suspected arson and homicide, but no arrest was ever made.

Two years ago, a tip came in that reopened the investigation, and fire investigators from Lebanon Fire, Whitestown Police, and the Indiana State Fire Marshal began tracking down leads.

“We’ve literally had to travel the Midwest to find people to interview,” said Chief Jason Lee of the Lebanon Fire Department. “We’ve spent 2,000 or 3,000 man hours on this case.”

Lee told Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney they’ve identified suspects in Payne’s death and in December 2012, they forwarded their case to the Boone County Prosecutor’s Office.

“We submitted our paperwork,” Lee said. “We’re talking a thousand documents. Hopefully we’ll get somebody put behind bars.”

Payne’s mother, Mary Ann Shepherd, told Kenney the documents include confessions.

“I would think a confession would be a prosecutor’s dream to have that kind of evidence,” Shepherd said. “But absolutely nothing has happened.”

Lori Schein, Deputy Prosecutor with the Boone County Prosecutor’s Office, told the Call 6 Investigators they are still reviewing the case and no determination has been made on whether charges will be filed.

“The waiting is difficult on a personal level,” Lee said. “We’re eager because of the amount of time we have invested in the case.”

Lee said the suspects may be tied to other violent crimes in Boone County.

“In this county, we don’t get a lot of violent crime, so when it happens, we work hard to make sure we solve them,” said Lee.

Whitestown Police Chief Dennis Anderson agreed.

“I think we’ve gone above and beyond (in investigating Payne’s death),” said Anderson, who expressed frustration to RTV6 at the lack of communication from the prosecutor’s office. “We’ve gotten better cooperation from agencies outside our state than from our own prosecutor.”

Mary Ann Shepherd said after her son died, the case appeared to go dormant.

“I’ve wondered if I would ever get answers,” Shepherd said. “I didn’t know if I was going to go to my grave never knowing what happened, until that tip came in two years ago.”

Shepherd expressed gratitude toward fire investigators who’ve devoted thousands of hours tracking down leads.

“I was glad somebody was doing something,” Shepherd said.

Shepherd is still holding out hope she will get another phone call, this time telling her charges have been filed in her son’s death.

“I won’t quit trying until I can no longer try,” Shepherd said. “I will keep trying to get justice for my son.”

Follow Kara Kenney on Twitter: @karakenney6 | Facebook: KaraKenneyNews

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