Two Big Mistakes Led Police to Fugitives in Colorado

Posted at 8:49 PM, Oct 25, 2012
and last updated 2013-02-20 13:01:00-05

When the Michigan fugitives arrived at the hotel in Canon City, they were able to blend in for a short time, but soon their secret was out.

Two big errors along the way helped law enforcement to close in. The marshals were hot on their trail and a case of mistaken identity and a license plate switch at a local Safeway took them down.

FOX 17 may now know what led the fugitives and their girlfriends to Canon City, Colorado.

It wasn’t the “Splendid Climate, and beautiful Mountain Drives,” the town is known for. Police say it was Laura Grauman’s relative, 28-year-old Jessica Payne, who lives in Canon City. But, the fugitives didn’t know she had moved to a different house and made a big error when they went looking for her.

Instead of calling the Jessica like they were intending to, they ended up calling the wrong woman. They called 23-year-old Jessie Payne. She has a similar sounding name, but is no relation to the fugitives. She said she was sleeping when the call came in at 2:00 AM from Laura Grauman.

“She says it’s Laura Lee, and I’m like ‘who? I don’t know who you are,'” says Jessie Payne, a Canon City resident. “And, she’s like, ‘It’s Laura Lee Jessie,’ and I’m like, ‘I don’t know who you are. Why are you calling me at 2:00 in the morning’?”

Jessie says the fugitives found her number after going to an address where Laura’s relative, the other Payne, once lived. Ironically, they knocked on the door of one of Jessie’s friends who mistakenly thought they were looking for her. Jessie said Laura Grauman lied in order to use his cell phone to call her.

“She didn’t tell him what she wanted, she wouldn’t say that but, she basically made it sound like I had run away or, I was missing, I was in trouble,” says Jessie Payne.

She says Laura Grauman wasn’t making any sense.

“She mumbles, she slurs her words,” said Jessie who then became irritated. “I’m like, my name is Jessie! Don’t call me back, and then that was it. And, then a couple days later, I get a call from the federal marshals and they’re wanting to interview me because I’ve talked to a fugitive,” said Jessie.

FOX 17 spoke to the real Jessica Payne at her home in Canon City. She did not want to appear on camera, but said the four never came by her home or contacted her.  However, US Marshalls and police contacted both Jessica and Jessie Payne and now they knew for sure, the fugitives were indeed in Canon City.

“That was how they confirmed that they were here,” says Sergeant Ed Pendleton, Canon City Police Department.

The second mistake that brought the fugitives to justice was stealing a license plate from a car at a local Safeway, and then switching it out. Canon City Police say the fugitives took the plate off the Nissan that they had stolen from Iowa put that plate on the car in the grocery store parking lot, and then put the stolen Canon City plate on their car.

“Our first information from the Marshall’s Office was that they would be in a Silver GMC pickup truck,” says Sergeant Ed Pendleton.

When the woman reported there was a different plate on her car, Pendleton says police ran it and stopped looking for the pickup, last seen in Kokomo, Indiana. Pendleton says they then knew to look for the Nissan around town.

“I don’t know why they put the stolen plate on that other vehicle,” says Pendleton, “but they did. Thank goodness it helped us out.”

Jessie Payne says it’s strange how those little details, including her phone call, helped to bring the four fugitives in. “It honestly just ended up being a coincidence,” said Jessie.