The 1975 murder of Debbie Gama that shocked the small town of Erie, Pennsylvania is covered in the upcoming episode Dead Days of Summer.
Days after the 16-year-old high school student disappeared from her home, her body was discovered in Cussewago Creek in Crawford County. Debbie reportedly got into an argument with her mother on the day of her disappearance and stormed off. Her family never saw her alive again.
It was suddenly revealed that Debbie’s favorite high school teacher, Raymond Payne, was responsible for this horrific murder. Despite claims to the contrary by Raymond, he was eventually found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. He developed problems after contracting COVID-19 and died in custody in 2020.
Who and why did Debbie Gama’s killer?
At Debbie’s school, Vincent Strong High School in Erie County, Pennsylvania, Raymond Payne was a popular teacher. He was one of her favorite professors. Although Debbie’s murder was not solved by the police, Debbie’s mother reportedly hired a private investigator who found a connection between the slain girl and the high school teacher.
When police followed up on a lead and discovered copper wires in Raymond’s belongings matching those to which Debbie had been tied shortly before her death, they made Raymond the subject of an arrest. Raymond Payne was quick to acknowledge his role in Debbie’s death but claimed it was an accident.
According to investigators, Debbie had previously been assaulted and fatally strangled. Payne claimed he only wanted to photograph Debbie and tied her up with her permission. She reportedly choked on the cables and died in a bizarre accident. He further claimed that Debbie Gama was not the victim of an attack.
He pleaded guilty to one murder charge in 1977. He was sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty of first-degree murder by a panel of three judges. Later, a former inmate at the Erie County Jail reportedly claimed that Payne allegedly told him that Debbie’s death was due to Payne’s longstanding fantasies about sex.
What happened to Raymond Payne?
In 1997, Raymond Payne filed his first complaint, asking for DNA testing. His appeal was finally granted in 2014 after several failed attempts. The investigation found that Payne was not the one who attacked Debbie Gama. However, judges found him again guilty of first-degree murder during his retrial in 2020, stating that the severity of the assault, or lack thereof, did not alter what he did to the young girl.
Payne was a prisoner at State Correctional Institution in Laurel Highlands, where he contracted COVID-19 and passed away in 2020. The coroner’s office determined that pneumonia and COVID-19 caused cardiac arrest, which was the cause of his death.
Investigation Discovery will air the upcoming Dead Days of Summer episode titled Twisted Lessons on August 11, 2022. She will detail Debbie Gama’s death and explore Raymond Payne’s post-conviction life. Check out this space for more developments.