Thursday, August 10, 2000

Beating victim recalls night of terror

She believes passer-by saved her from worse

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Jerri Payne shows injuries from a July 31 assault.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
| ZOOM |
        FORT THOMAS — Jerri Payne wants to know who it was who drove by a lonely rural Campbell County intersection on the night of July 31, saw a man beating a woman and called police from a cell phone.

        That anonymous good Samaritan probably saved Ms. Payne's life, the 46-year-old Fort Thomas woman says, and ended an hours-long, savage attack from an assailant she had met in a local tavern.

        Ms. Payne's injuries — broken facial bones, bruises, swelling and double vision — have prevented her from returning to work. But she was in Campbell District Court Tuesday for the preliminary hearing of Ricky Leap, 33, of Alexandria, who was bound over to the grand jury on assault charges.

        He pleaded not guilty.

        On Wednesday, Ms. Payne sat bandaged and bruised in her living room and explained why she feels compelled to tell her story.

        “Perhaps something positive can come out of this,” she said.

        Maybe she'll find that cell phone caller. Maybe other people won't make her mistakes, she said.

        Ms. Payne left her office in Edgewood that Monday evening and decided to stop at the J&G Cafe on Ky. 8 about 6 p.m. for a drink. There, she met a man who boasted about his brand new Mustang. He offered to take her for a ride.

        “A couple of other girls in the bar said they had taken a ride and it was fun, so I said I would,” Ms. Payne said.

        “We drove out on the

        road, and he asked me to stop and have a drink at Young's Tavern (in Silver Grove), and I said OK,” she said.

        She said she had several shots of Tequila and became uncharacteristically disoriented; she was unable to even find her way out of the bar.

        “I think someone must have put something in my drink,” she said.

        The man apparently carried her to his car — Ms. Payne says she can't remember — and drove to a home in Alexandria.

        Ms. Payne said she remembers only bits and pieces of what happened next.

        “I remember being in the basement of his house, and he was shaking my head and banging it on the floor and punching me, and he kept telling me to shut up,” she said.

        “His mother was upstairs, and when she came to the basement steps he told her to go back up. He had his hand over my mouth.”

        Next Ms. Payne recalls being back in her assailant's car.

        “When the car slowed down at the intersection of Lower Tug Fork Road and Four Mile Road (in northeast Campbell County), I managed to open the door and fall out,” she said.

        “He stopped the car, got out and started beating me again. The only clothing I had on at this point was my bra, which was down around my waist. I don't know when he took my clothes.”

        Then a car passed and slowed.

        Ms. Payne saw its brake lights. Her assailant did, too. He returned to his car and sped away.

        “I really believe if that person hadn't come by, I would have been killed,” she said.

        Shortly thereafter, about 11:30 p.m., Campbell County police arrived. Ms. Payne was taken to the St. Luke East Hospital for seven hours of treatment. Detective Dennis Lempkuhl stayed with her the whole time, she said.

        Ms. Payne's injuries are still visible. Her right eye is still swollen and discolored, but she says it's better than the first five days after the beating, when it was swollen shut.

        She also has numerous bruises, a cut over her left eye, and swollen cheeks. Bits of bone chip are floating around inside her cheeks and jaw, she said, she can feel them with her fingers.

        She continues to experience double vision every time she tilts her head down. An office manager, she can't yet work on a computer again, though doctors hope her vision will eventually clear up.

        Ms. Payne was able to describe her assailant, down to the prominent tattoos on his arms. Police arrested Mr. Leap on Aug. 1 at his home.

        Initially, Mr. Leap was released on $20,000 bond. But Tuesday, at his preliminary hearing, District Judge Karen Thomas viewed photos of Ms. Payne taken shortly after the beating and raised his bond to $100,000 cash. She ordered Mr. Leap back to the Campbell County Detention Center.

        This is not the first time Mr. Leap has been accused in a serious assault. Court records show that in 1995 he was charged with murder for his part in a robbery and fatal beating of an elderly Campbell County man. Later that charge was reduced to robbery and then to receiving stolen property.

        Mr. Leap served about three years of a five-year sentence. Court officials were unavailable to comment on the case Wednesday.


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