Driver who allegedly injured four kids in a car accident arraigned in court

By Ashley Bunton -

A 24-year-old from Columbus was arraigned in court this week after allegedly driving with a suspended license and injuring four children in an August car accident in Paint Township.

Jessica Lee Payne appeared Monday in the Fayette County Court of Common Pleas after she was indicted by a grand jury.

There are eight criminal charges filed against her. Payne was arraigned on four counts of aggravated vehicular assault, felonies of the second degree, and four counts of endangering children, felonies of the third degree.

A not guilty plea was entered on each of the charges. She was indicted Nov. 17 by a Fayette County grand jury.

All of the charges stem from an accident that occurred Aug. 12 in the 11000 block of State Route 38, according to the court, and Payne was driving with a suspended license.

On Aug. 12 at 2:59 p.m., Payne was driving a four-door 1999 Saturn vehicle with a front seat passenger, Christina Payne, 26, of Bloomingburg, and four children – ages 8, 8, 5 and 4 – in the back seat, according to the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office. As the vehicle was traveling northbound, Payne reportedly failed to negotiate a curve. The vehicle crossed the double-yellow line into the path of an oncoming motorcycle.

Payne reportedly swerved, lost control and the vehicle struck a concrete post. According to reports, the vehicle rolled and at least one of the four children was ejected. The children were also reportedly unrestrained in the back seat.

The 5-year-old suffered significant injuries, including facial lacerations. The 4-year-old suffered serious injuries and was flown by medical helicopter to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus for treatment. All four children were transported to Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Judge Steven Beathard explained the charges during Monday’s arraignment hearing. Beathard said each of the second-degree felony charges for aggravated vehicular assault carry a maximum possible sentence of eight years in the Ohio Reformatory for Women.

Beathard said there is a specification to each child endangering count stating that in addition to the alleged offense creating a substantial risk to the child, the alleged offense also resulted in serious physical harm.

Payne faces a maximum possible sentence of three years for each of the four endangering children charges, Beathard said.

Public defense attorney Kathryn Hapner was appointed as counsel to represent Payne.

Payne was placed on pre-trial services and is required to call into the court every Monday to check-in.

An informal pretrial hearing is scheduled for Feb. 12, court records show.

Jury trial in the case is scheduled for May.

Editor Ryan Carter contributed to this article.

By Ashley Bunton

Contact Ashley by phone at (740) 313-0355 or connect on Twitter by searching for @ashbunton and sending a message.

Contact Ashley by phone at (740) 313-0355 or connect on Twitter by searching for @ashbunton and sending a message.