Vivian Ho

San Francisco Chronicle

A San Francisco Superior Court jury deadlocked Tuesday on murder charges against a man accused of killing a sex partner nearly 29 years ago and leaving the body in McLaren Park, authorities said.

Three of the 12 jurors believed there was evidence proving that William Payne, 48, strangled 41-year-old Nikolaus Crumbley during sex in a rental car in November 1983.

But nine jurors said the DNA that led to Payne’s cold-case arrest decades later only proved that the men had sex, not that Payne committed murder, according to Deputy Public Defender Kwixuan Maloof.

Crumbley was found facedown with his pants and underwear pulled down to his ankles in McLaren Park on Nov. 16, 1983. He had been beaten and was robbed of his belt and wallet.

Investigators traced DNA found on Crumbley’s body to Payne, whose DNA was in a criminal database after he was convicted in 1984 of assaulting a woman.

During the monthlong trial, Deputy District Attorney Michael Swart argued that the amount of Payne’s semen found in Crumbley confirmed that he was the last one to have had sex with the victim.

But Maloof argued that the DNA was deteriorated and could have been left before the night Crumbley was killed. He argued that a witness saw two men dumping Crumbley’s rental car in Lake Merritt in Oakland a few hours after the murder, but the witness’ descriptions did not match Payne.

The jury deliberated for two days before declaring it could not reach a verdict.

Vivian Ho is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer.



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