Man sentenced to 65 years in murder of 81-year-old Marion woman

Roman Cruz Urista Jr.

MARION, Ind. – A judge sentenced a man to 65 years in the murder and rape of a Grant County woman.

Roman Cruz Urista Jr. was arrested in 2016—13 years after the murder of 81-year-old Betty Payne.

Payne was killed on May 12, 2003. Her son, David Payne, discovered his mother’s body in her home at 1001 S. Gallatin St. She had been strangled.

The crime remained unsolved for more than a decade. Finally, DNA linked Urista to Payne’s death, and he was arrested in Hamilton County, Ohio, in November 2016.

DNA also linked him to sexual assault cases in Collier County, Florida, as well as Ohio’s Montgomery and Hamilton counties.

Urista, 62, agreed to a plea deal that kept him from being extradited from Indiana to Florida to face charges in the sexual assault case there. He was sentenced to 65 years for murder, 50 years for rape and 50 years for criminal deviate conduct. The sentences will be served concurrently.

Urista pleaded guilty on April 9, the day his case was set to go to trial.

“The Court considers as a mitigating circumstance that the defendant has pled guilty to the charges thus sparing the victim’s family from trial although said pleas were entered only on the day of trial,” the judge wrote in the sentencing order.