If the Suffolk DA and Boston Police homicide detectives are correct, Billerica Realtor Michael Balba has some dark secrets.
And they’re not about a leaky roof or a ranch house with a faulty foundation.
Michael Balba, 55, of Billerica, who it appears works as a realtor in town, is being held on four counts of perjury following his indictment by a Suffolk County grand jury investigating the slaying of 22-year-old college student Rebecca Payne.
Payne was found shot to death in her Mission Hill apartment on May 20, 2008.
A 30-year-old Boston man, Cornell Smith, was indicted for first degree murder, armed assault in a dwelling, and unlawful possession of a firearm in connection with the killing.
Suffolk County DA Daniel Conley announced both indictments on Sunday.
Conley said in a prepared statement, viewable here, that Balba was arrested on Saturday by Boston homicide detectives. He didn’t say where the arrest occurred, and neither Boston nor Billerica police would comment. I’m not sure if he was arrested in Billerica.
Someone who answered the phone at a listed number for Michael Balba in Billerica tonight declined to comment, saying only that Michael Balba wasn’t home. I left my number in case a family member or attorney wants to tell Balba’s side of this sometime soon.
Balba faces up to life in prison for each of the four counts of perjury. Perjury, if committed during a murder investigation, is punishable by up to life. Here’s the relevant MGL.
If these allegations are true, I would love to know how Balba got himself involved in something like this. There was a $25,000 reward for information in this case. If these allegations are true and Balba knows something, why didn’t he go for the reward?
Payne was in her fourth year at Northeastern when she was killed. Here is a bio provided by her family shortly after the killing.
Conley said Payne did not know Smith, and “did nothing to bring about her own death.”
Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis, in a prepared statement released through the BPD website tonight, described Payne as an innocent victim.
Previous reports, such as this piece Fox25 ran in 2010, suggested Payne was the victim of mistaken identity.
Several people heard the gunshots that killed Payne, but no one called 911 until hours later.
UPDATE: Lisa Redmond reports from court that Balba was ordered held on $100,000 cash bail after prosecutors said Balba drove his crack dealer, Smith, to and from Payne’s apartment on the night of the murder, and that Balba sat in his car across the street smoking crack with another individual while the killing occurred.
Prosecutors did not accuse Balba of knowing about the killing, though they did say he heard the gunshots.
When called before the grand jury, Balba initially invoked his Fifth Amendment rights, but was later granted immunity and ordered to testify. Immunity only protected Balba if he told the truth, though.
Prosecutors say Balba told the grand jury he had no memory of the night of the killing, even though it occurred on his wedding anniversary, and even though he remembered where he ate that night.
Prosecutors say Balba lied under oath when he told the grand jury:
– that he never gave a ride to any other person at Smith’s request
– that he never heard or otherwise learned about gunshots during his interactions with Smith
– that nothing unusual or significant ever happened during his trips to Boston to buy crack.
– that he had no memory of any unique or unusual event during any of his dozens of interactions with Smith.
Balba’s attorney said his client is “a productive member of society” who works three jobs to support his children and family.
“Had this defendant not lied during that investigation, Becca’s parents might not have had to wait four years to find some measure of accountability in their daughter’s death,” Suffolk DA Daniel Conley said in a prepared statement.
Billerica Police confirmed for me today that they assisted Boston homicide detectives as Balba was arrested not far from his home on Saturday. He was courtesy booked in Billerica, and then turned over to Boston Police.