LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A woman found buried in her backyard this spring was the victim of squatters who dismembered her already-deceased body when they moved in, the I-Team first reported Wednesday.
Police discovered 82-year-old Lucille Payne’s remains in her backyard on Shore Breeze Drive in April. Payne is listed as the homeowner for the property near Lake Mead and Rampart boulevards in the northwest valley. Records show she purchased the home in 1999.
Investigators tell the I-Team they believe Payne died in the home in the summer of 2018. Because she lived alone and had no close relatives, Payne’s body sat in a chair until squatters discovered it sometime earlier this year.
The squatters then decided to cut up her mummified body and bury it in the yard.
“After finding her, the decision was made between several people that they were going to dismember her body and bury her and then basically drain her finances and sell off her belongings, fraudulently,” Metro homicide Lt. Ray Spencer said.
Neighbors had told 8 News Now that the home appeared empty for years. Police said Payne had set her bills on autopay, raising no red flags. A tip then police to the home in April.
“She was not buried very deeply, and an officer started to move the dirt and found her arm inside a very shallow grave in the backyard,” Spencer said.
Initially, police suspected Payne had been murdered, but evidence later showed Payne had been deceased for several years before the April discovery.
“Next door neighbors were able to confirm for us that they had heard digging over the previous couple of weeks,” Spencer said.
Over the course of several weeks, the squatters sold Payne’s car. In addition to charges for selling items that did not belong to them, the squatters face charges of improper burial.
Payne’s estate is now selling the home. An Amazon package addressed to a man with a May shipping date was at the property’s front door when the I-Team visited on Wednesday. A photo of her was unavailable as of Wednesday, a lawyer for the estate said.
“There’s been so much work to do to make sure we uncovered every potential possibility that had occurred,” Spencer said.
Metro has not released the suspects’ names.
This summer, the Clark County Coroner’s Office said Payne had died from blunt force trauma and sharp force injuries. The office also ruled her death a homicide. Payne’s cause and manner of death have since been changed to undetermined.