Pastor Eric Payne paroled, then snatched from his church, wife, four children back to prison for clerical error

by Eric and Theresa Payne

Eric and Theresa Payne prepare for the nonprofit fundraiser they had planned for May 4, the Run to Belle Glade Marathon on SR80 eastbound.

My name is Theresa Payne and my husband, Pastor Eric Payne, is a parolee from the state of Georgia. He was paroled on Oct. 3, 2018, and transferred his parole to Florida, where we live. 

We have four children, ages 12, 10, 9 and 6. We have launched our church and have become members of the Chamber of Commerce here in Belle Glade, Florida. Pastor Payne has become a member of the Ministerial Board as well.

We also just opened our non-profit organization, Glades Family Services, and Eric has kicked off his business in fitness training with One-On-One Custom Fitness. He trains individual clients as well as groups.

Pastor Eric Payne volunteers several days a week with Light House Cafe in feeding the community and serves with me as a group leader with Christ Fellowship. We had been planning a Run to Belle Glade Marathon and a Pray for The Glades Gospel Concert, both on May 4.

Eric and Theresa honor his mother, 94 years young Mother Payne.

But while I live in Florida, my husband is currently in Georgia and, at present, I am unable to visit him. We now have only one income, as I pay all of our bills alone.

After all of these months, the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDOC) issued a warrant for Eric’s arrest because of an error that was made by the Dougherty County Clerk. They had failed to forward all of his sentencing papers. My husband had non-violent offenses – mainly possession of cocaine (.001 gram residue) – for which he received 15 years.

My husband did nothing wrong, no violation of his parole at all. This error is not his fault, but he is being punished as if it is. Because of this recent knowledge, or unless you know of another plan of action, we feel the best remedy is to seek his release via the Parole Board with a seasoned and aggressive Parole Board attorney. We need help, direction, case study, laws etc. that will assist in my husband’s immediate release.

After service, some of the congregation of Pastor Eric Payne go to the park for homeless outreach.

We had been told that he was entitled to be released but then they discovered they weren’t supposed to. Now we as a family, a church and a community are suffering because Eric was suddenly taken from us.

My children and I are devastated and have begun counseling to help us deal with the separation from Eric. Our children are having difficulty being home and not feeling safe without their father with them. They have also expressed fear for his safety in jail. 

This has affected me at work and now I will have to go back on medication for PTSD and anxiety as well. Eric is being tortured. Having been free and having accomplished more in five months than most due in years and all of that to be snatched away because of an error in paperwork from the Parole Board – it’s inhumane as well as cruel and unjust punishment.

We believe that a lawsuit is appropriate and we need your help in getting Eric released immediately. I believe there’s a civil lawsuit that can be brought against the clerk, GDOC and/or the Parole Board, but I cannot afford an attorney nor find anyone interested in pursuing our case.

Meanwhile, I want to raise awareness of this matter and I want someone held accountable. In addition, please let my husband hear from you. Thank you in advance for your time.

Respectfully and sincerely,

Theresa Payne

At the United Methodist Church in Belle Glade, Florida, Pastor Eric Payne, Theresa Payne and their four children pose with Pastor Nolin.

This is a letter dictated by my husband on Feb. 27, 2019, while in Palm Beach County Jail prior to being extradited to Georgia.

Dear reader:

My name is Eric Payne and I’ve been arrested after being paroled on October 2018 due to an error. 

While I am incarcerated, I would like to mention the mental fight that I have dealt with from my previous incarceration was more than I can speak on. It was a relief that I came out “unharmed” mentally, physically and emotionally. 

In a moment’s notice, I was snatched from my wife, my children, my church members and all those I had responsibilities to. I have lost my personal training business, I had to cancel a nonprofit fundraiser called Run to Belle Glade, also a Pray for The Glades gospel concert. I lost new contacts including the new relationships that I created, everything that I built via social media – YouTube, Facebook, IG, Periscope, Twitter.

There is a great deal of embarrassment that has come from my arrest before my church, family, friends, fellow Christians and pastors. The continual anguish over the entire matter is unbearable. I am continuously suffering the loss of my family, the loss of my peace of mind, the loss of the peaceful environment that I lived in. Day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute and second by second, I am enduring this anguish and suffering. 

The stressful environment from various jails, the stress from the extradition process and journey, the stress being in the Jackson Prison and at the final prison I will be at once again. The environments are all unsafe.

I shudder constantly when I think that I had settled within myself that I would NEVER again put myself, my wife and my children in a place where they would be without me. Never would I put myself in a position to be incarcerated again. Never again would I break the law.

I continue to fear the “what ifs?” and to wonder “What will I lose?” I’m dealing with a continual fear of his environment.

I further fear for my mother, who is now 94 years old. I fear she won’t make it to see me return home again. God has blessed my mother to live through my last incarceration, but “what if?” this time it will not be so? The likely reality of her not making it is unbearable for me.

One of the worst parts of being incarcerated is constantly not knowing. Not knowing my future. Not knowing what will happen to my mother. Not knowing what will happen to my wife and four children. Just not knowing. The extradition process is the most grueling, the most terrible, the most fearful of all.

Being cuffed throughout the entire journey from Florida to Georgia, being crammed into a cage with other inmates and shackled. Imagining the pain associated with crashing, burning or drowning with no rescue.

I think of the suffering of my wife, my children, my family, my church members and all those connected with me will endure if I lose my life during this journey. These thoughts haunt me every moment that I am incarcerated.

I am extremely stressed when I think of the Jackson Prison environment. The atmosphere is extremely violent, noisy, clamorous and we’re exposed to continual profanity, continuous lockdowns and not knowing “what” or “when.”

The mental strain on my wife due to my incarceration and the mental strain on my children has put them in a place where they are currently undergoing therapy and now my wife is on medication for anxiety attacks. My incarceration is unjust and it is cruel.

My wife is now the breadwinner for myself and our four children. There is also a high possibility that I will need therapy and maybe medication as well. We’ll be burdened with additional costs from phone calls, mail, attorneys and more all due to this unjust incarceration. I simply do not know what the future holds for me but what I hope and pray for is intervention for my freedom as soon as possible.

Hoping you will help,

Pastor Eric Payne

Send our brother some love and light: Eric Payne, 1000800105, Montgomery State Prison, P.O. Box 256, Mount Vernon, GA 30445. For further confirmation, please view Eric Payne, New Zion Assembly, Run to Belle Glade, Pray for The Glades and Master Trainer Eric Payne on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.