Jury selection starts in cold-case homicide

Courtesy PhotoNikolaus Crumbley was visiting The City from Texas when he was murdered at McLaren Park in 1983. DNA evidence linked William Payne to the murder almost 30 years later.

Jury selection began Tuesday for a cold-case homicide trial in San Francisco involving a strangling in McLaren Park almost 30 years ago.

William Payne, now 47, is charged with first-degree murder for the strangling death of 41-year-old Nikolaus Crumbley, whose body was found at the intersection of John F. Shelley Drive and Mansell Street on Nov. 16, 1983, District Attorney George Gascón said.

Crumbley, a native of Texas, had been visiting The City that November. He was found with his pants and underwear pulled down to his knees.

During an autopsy in 2004, a semen sample was taken from Crumbley’s rectum. Tests eventually linked the semen to Payne in 2009.

Police then issued an arrest warrant for Payne, but he was only located in January, at substance abuse and mental health treatment center Walden House.

“Cold-hit DNA is integral to bringing criminals to justice,” Gascón said. “Almost three decades later, we have charged the person responsible for this horrific murder. This case shows that at times justice can be delayed, but it cannot be denied.”

On Feb. 2, Payne’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Kwixuan Maloof, requested his client's $5 million bail be lowered because Payne has four children, but the request was denied.

Opening arguments in the trial are scheduled to begin Monday.

ccopeland@sfexaminer.com

Note: This story was corrected Thursday, Sept. 6. It was incorrectly stated that the District Attorney's Office is still weighing whether to seek the death penalty. Jury selection began Tuesday, Sept. 4. It also was clarified that a bail reduction request was made in February.

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