LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – A woman found buried in her Las Vegas backyard was the victim of squatters who dismembered her body when they moved in, investigators said on Wednesday.
Police discovered 82-year-old Lucille Payne’s remains in her backyard in April. Payne is listed as the homeowner for the property and records show she purchased it in 1999.
Investigators said 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, they said.
Investigators said the squatters decided to cut up her 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,” Lt. Ray Spencer said.
Neighbors told KLAS that the home appeared empty for years. Police said Payne had set her bills on autopay, raising no red flags. A tip brought 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.
In addition to charges for selling items that did not belong to them, like Payne’s car, the suspects 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 KLAS visited Wednesday.
The police department 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 had also ruled her death a homicide. Payne’s cause and manner of death have since been changed to undetermined.