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Herbert Curtis III (69) killed his partner Patricia Payne (54) in a murder-suicide
Suicide - Gunshot
Published: Feb 07, 2017 @ 6:16 PM
Herbert Curtis III (69)
Feb 05, 2017
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Patricia Payne (54)
Feb 05, 2017
Cause of Death:
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A Ventura woman died from multiple gunshot wounds Monday morning after a domestic dispute in which the shooter, identified as a retired judge, turned the gun on himself and was found dead by police.
Police and other sources said the gunman was former Ventura County Superior Court Judge Herbert Curtis III, 69. Authorities also identified the woman as Patricia Payne, 54, of Ventura. Police confirmed that the two were in a relationship.
Ventura police were called by a neighbor to the residence in the 5500 block of Dorsey Street at 11:05 p.m. Sunday, police said Monday morning.
According to Ventura police Cmdr. Sam Arroyo, patrol officers responded to the call and reportedly heard multiple gunshots come from inside the residence. The officers retreated to safety at which time the Ventura police SWAT team was called to the scene, Arroyo said.
Hostage negotiators reached Curtis inside the residence and learned that he may have shot a female, police said.
Upon hearing additional gunshots, the SWAT team went into the apartment and found a woman alive in a closet with multiple gunshot wounds, officials said. She was taken to a local hospital where she later died, police said.
A deceased male, later identified as Curtis, was also found in the residence with at least one self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said.
Occupants of nearby residences were evacuated during the standoff, officials said.
The incident lasted over three hours, Arroyo said.
Police had been called to the residence several times in the last two years for disturbances and alleged fraudulent credit card activity, according to Arroyo.
Curtis was the county's first and – to date — only black judge.
The nephew of flamboyant boxing promoter Don King, Curtis grew up on the poor east side of Cleveland and received a track scholarship to Cleveland State University.
He later attended Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, paying his way by teaching political science at a junior high school and working as a bookkeeper.
He left Cleveland in 1975 to accept a job as a Ventura County deputy district attorney.
Then-Assistant District Attorney Michael Bradbury, who later became the district attorney, told the Star in 2013 why he hired Curtis.
"Kind of the bottom line was whether you had jury appeal," Bradbury said. "He had it in his personality. He was warm. He made everybody feel good. He always had a smile on his face."
Curtis was a prosecutor for almost 10 years. In 1984, Gov. George Deukmejian appointed him to the Ventura County Municipal Court bench. Years later, Curtis was elevated to the Superior Court.
Among other cases, he presided over 18 murder trials and numerous molestation and elder abuse trials that he said in 2013 troubled his sleep and drove up his blood pressure.
"The first few years it was devastating," he said. "I wouldn't sleep because I would think of autopsies and what one human being can do to another."
Curtis was married and divorced at least three times. He fathered two daughters, Rachel Skinner and Kimberly Curtis.
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