HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — The first court to review the evidence against a Huntsville man charged with murdering his longtime girlfriend and leaving her remains behind a south Huntsville Target store wasn’t satisfied with the case and refused to revoke his probation on an unrelated charge.
William Lewis Payton, 41, had a revocation hearing Tuesday before retired Circuit Judge Jim Smith.
Payton is charged with killing Tonya Lynn Amerson, 27, in October. They had three children together, but she was not living with Payton at the time of her death.
Her dismembered remains were found behind the Target store in Jones Valley. Investigators said at the time of Payton’s arrest that Amerson was killed at Payton’s apartment and the body was left near the shopping center.
At the time of his arrest, Payton was on probation for 2014 drug possession charges. The State of Alabama moved to revoke his probation, citing the murder arrest. The probation rules require that the probationer not violate and state or federal laws.
The revocation request argues that evidence found inside the apartment “suggests that a crime had been committed in the apartment which belongs to William Lewis Payton.”
The state also argued that Payton was not paying court-ordered fines, as required.
The hearing Tuesday included testimony from a Huntsville Police Department investigator. At the end of the hearing, the judge said the state had not met the burden of making the court “reasonably satisfied” that the evidence justified the revocation.
Payton’s attorney, Patrick Tuten, said the state does not yet have the autopsy and toxicology results in the case and the investigator could not cite the cause of death.
“He maintains his innocence to the murder charge and we look forward to receiving more evidence that will exonerate him,” Tuten said.
Payton has a preliminary hearing on the murder charge set for Dec. 16. He’s currently in jail on a $250,000 bond.