New Tazewell couple charged with criminal homicide

Published 12:20 pm Monday, January 9, 2023


A New Tazewell couple is charged with criminal homicide in the death of a 3-year-old male child.

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Aaron Justin Smith, 30, and Alexis Shianne Payne, 26, are currently lodged at the Claiborne County Jail on $1 million cash bonds.

The arrests are the result of an ongoing police investigation dating from Oct. 28 – the date the initial call came in as a choking incident. Upon arrival, New Tazewell Police Officer Bill Baumgardner was told by Smith that the boy had fallen while eating. The father told Baumgardner the child was found unresponsive, according to the police citation.

Police were told a neighbor was administering CPR on scene. The boy was later intubated at the Claiborne Medical Center. He was later transported to Children’s Hospital in Knoxville where he died on Nov. 1.

An autopsy was performed on Nov. 2 at the Knox County Regional Forensics Center where it was determined the death was a result of homicide and that the boy’s injuries were inconsistent with a single fall. According to the citation, the child had multiple bruises to the face, spine, buttocks, head, legs and arms.

The subsequent investigation ruled the boy had been in the care of just the two – Smith and Payne – and that the couple provided inconsistent statements that did not explain the events.

At the time of the incident, Smith had told police officers that Payne, his live-in girlfriend, had left the residence prior to the alleged fall.