Child porn suspect investigated in murders

By Joel Eisenbaum - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - Local 2 Investigates has learned the Harris County Sheriff's Office is taking a closer look at several unsolved murders following the arrest of a 31-year-old auto mechanic.

Joseph Michael Payne was arrested Feb. 22 on three charges of possession of child pornography and two charges aggravated sexual assault of children under the age of 14.

Joseph Michael Payne

Houston Police investigators said they recovered child pornography on Payne's computer. Investigators contend Payne showed two young children that pornography and forced them to re-enact the depicted scenes.

A source close to the investigation told Local 2 that Payne also revealed some information online that could tie him to the June 2009 murder of Trang Van in northwest Harris County.

The 18-year-old girl had been shot dead and stuffed inside a closet at her parents northwest Harris County home. Nobody has been arrested and charged with Van's murder.

Payne's boss at an auto mechanic business less than two miles away confirmed to Local 2 that investigators have been asking questions regarding Payne's whereabouts while various homicides took place in the area over the last five years.

"They have asked me about the murder behind the store and the  murder out here in front of the store," said Andy Valero, Payne's boss.

Valero said he is convinced Payne is innocent and characterizes him as a dependable employee and reliable person.

Payne has not been charged with murder and has not been convicted of any crime. He is held without bail in the Harris County Jail.

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