A retired Ventura County Superior Court judge allegedly shot and killed his girlfriend before turning the gun on himself.
Authorities confirmed the deceased were Judge Herbert Curtis, 69, and Patricia Payne, 54.
According to local news station KEYT 3, police were called to a home in Ventura County, California, late Sunday night after a neighbor reported hearing an argument. Authorities tried to make contact with Curtis and Payne, who were inside the home, but then heard what they believed to be multiple gunshots coming from inside the house, according to the Ventura County Star.
Hostage negotiators and a SWAT team were called in, and contacted Curtis by phone, but he told them he was armed and refused to surrender. Police managed to deploy a listening device into the house where they heard Payne state she had been shot.
The SWAT team eventually entered the residence around 2 a.m. where they discovered Payne with multiple gunshot wounds. She died later on in a hospital.
Curtis was found inside the house with a self-inflicted gunshot wound and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Ventura Police Cmdr. Sam Arroyo told the Ventura County Star that police had been called on prior occasions — including earlier in the evening on the night of the murder-suicide, when Payne called to report that her identity had been stolen. Arroyo told the newspaper that authorities do not believe that call was related to the domestic dispute call later that night.
Curtis had called the police twice on January 18 to report a domestic dispute; during a follow-up visit the same day, Payne was arrested for misdemeanor public intoxication. She was due to be arraigned on March 17. And on December 25, Payne was arrested on a felony battery charge with injury to a police officer and with felony resisting arrest. She had previously called police claiming that someone had tried to access her bank account.
Curtis, who was the nephew of boxing promoter Don King, was the first, and to date, only black judge on the Ventura County Superior Court.
He served on the Ventura County Municipal Court from 1984-1998. He was appointed to the Ventura County Superior Court in 1998 and served there until his retirement in 2007.
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