Celestine Payne murdered her husband and lodger for insurance money: Snapped investigates

Mugshot of Celestine Payne
Celestine Payne pleaded guilty to murdering her husband and a boarder. Pic credit: New Jersey Dept of Corrections

Snapped on Oxygen is examing two murders from Paterson, New Jersey in 1995 that were committed for financial gain by Celestine Payne, along with her daughter, Wendy Payne, and Wendy’s then-boyfriend, Charles Pinchom.

In the fall of 1994, Celestine purchased two separate life insurance policies on two boarders that were staying at her home. She managed to get herself named as the sole beneficiary in the event of their deaths.

She then persuaded Pinchom, with help from her daughter Wendy, to kill both individuals. Pinchom killed one of the victims with a crowbar and wrapped her up in a sleeping bag before dumping the body in the Eastside Park in Paterson.

The second victim was stabbed but thankfully survived the attack and was later able to identify Pinchom as the attacker, which led investigators in Celestine’s direction.

As the police widened their investigation into the activities of Celestine Payne, they became suspicious of the circumstances surrounding the death of her husband. They learned that the mother-of-four had repeatedly threatened him and had even asked family friend, Eugene Cooper, to shoot him.

When Cooper declined, Celestine poisoned her husband and had her children help her place the remains in a box, which they then dragged to the side of the road.

Investigators learned that Celestine had pocketed $49,000 in a life insurance payout after her husband’s murder. An autopsy revealed he’d died from ingesting a mixture of antianxiety and anti-depression prescription drugs.

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Celestine Paye poisoned her husband’s food

The victim had not been prescribed drugs for depression, but the drugs used to kill him matched the prescription for Celestine’s depression. Her daughter, Wendy, later told the police that Celestine had put medication in her husband’s food and told the children not to eat it.

As well as depression, Celestine also suffered from schizophrenia and hallucinations, which investigators believe may have been a contributing factor in why she committed such dreadful crimes.

On May 28, 1997, Celestine pleaded guilty to two counts of murder and conspiracy to commit murder, along with one count of attempted murder and various other charges. She was sentenced to life in prison.

Pinchom was also sentenced to life in prison for murder and an additional 20 years for attempted murder. Wendy Payne is serving a 28-year sentence for her role in the murders.

More from Snapped

Follow the links to read about more crimes profiled on Snapped.

Previously on Snapped, the team looked at another deadly female killer in Cynthia Phillips, who left a trail of death and destruction across several states. Police finally caught up to her after she and an accomplice riddled her boyfriend, Toby Matthews, with seven bullets in Corsicana, Texas.

In another particularly brutal case, Sarah Vercauteren beat her mother with a hammer and then choked her to “finish her off.” Vercauternen committed the crime because her mom wouldn’t let her borrow her car to buy heroin.

Snapped airs at 6/7c on Oxygen.

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