83-Year-Old Jewelry Thief Doris Payne Is Going to Jail for the Last Time, Really

Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Doris Payne

When jewelry thief Doris Payne gets out of the slammer and is free of government supervision she'll be 87 years old and presumably too old to resume a life of crime.

Of course, that was probably the presumption when the 83-year-old was released from a county jail last year after serving time. Payne was arrested in 2010 for swiping a $9,000 ring from Macy's in San Diego and got a five-year sentence. But it only took a few months after getting out before she was pinched for stealing a $22,500 diamond ring from a Palm Desert jewelry store last November. 

This time she's scheduled to go away for two years. Payne pleaded guilty Monday to burglary and grand theft and will be under two years of mandatory supervision after she's released from county jail, a spokesperson for the Riverside County district attorney's office told the Los Angeles Times.

Payne has promised in the past to try to go straight, but no one really buys it, including her. She told the makers of a documentary called “The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne” that she wouldn't do it again but said, “I don’t have any regrets about stealing jewelry. I regret getting caught.”

And she does get caught. One detective told the Associated Press that she used 22 aliases in compiling an arrest record that was 6 feet long. That's going to happen when you've plied your trade for decades across multiple continents. The coal miner's daughter from Slab Fork, West Virginia, said stole jewelry across the country since her 20s, before heading to Europe in the 1970s. She worked in work in France, Switzerland, Greece, England and Monte Carlo.    

The district attorney sought a full six-year jail sentence for Payne, arguing that she committed her crime while on parole, had numerous prior convictions and would continue to keep stealing despite her age. Payne charms her victims with beauty, elegance and intelligence, often making her play right in front of the victim while chatting about jewelry and making small talk.

While she does get caught from time to time, she considers herself a pretty successful thief. “There’s never been a day that I went to steal that I did not get what I went to do,” she told the filmmakers.

Payne's attorney argued she really isn't much of a threat anymore. “Do we really need to incarcerate a nonviolent offender—yes, a repeat offender, that's true—who's ill, who has emphysema, who's elderly?” Gretchen von Helms asked the Times.

Good question. We'll probably find out the answer in two years.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Doris Payne, 83-Year-Old Jewelry Thief, Pleads Guilty in Latest Case (by Kate Mather, Los Angeles Times)

Recently Released 83-Year-Old International Jewel Thief Arrested Again (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

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