Retired Ventura County Superior Court judge kills girlfriend and himself

Herbert Curtis was appointed to the Superior Court in 1998.

On Feb. 5, at 11PM, the Ventura Police Department Command Center received a call from a resident in the 5500 block of Dorsey St. reporting that her neighbors were involved in a very loud and contentious verbal domestic argument.

When officers arrived on the scene they attempted to make contact with the individuals inside the residence. When they heard multiple gunshots they moved to a safer location and set up a perimeter around the residence.

In the residence was former Ventura County Superior Court Judge Herbert Curtis III, 69, and Patricia Payne, 54. Herbert Curtis was the nephew of boxing promoter Don King and was Ventura County Superior Court’s first black judge.

Hostage negotiators made contact by phone with Curtis, who indicated he was armed with a gun, but he refused to surrender. Payne’s condition was not known at this time. Ventura SWAT officers were notified and arrived a short time later.

Negotiations continued for about two hours until the SWAT team deployed a listening device into the residence and heard Payne indicating she had been shot. When additional gunshots were heard, SWAT team members immediately entered the residence to try to rescue Payne.

As they made entry, Curtis shot and killed himself. Payne was brought to a waiting ambulance and was transported to VCMC for treatment of multiple gunshot wounds where she later died.

Ventura Police Commander Sam Arroyo said police had been called to the residence several times previously and that Payne had been arrested for misdemeanor public intoxication and other infractions. She was scheduled to be arraigned on March 17.

At the time of his death, Curtis was a partner at the Oxnard law firm of Gutierrez, Curtis and Gutierrez.

 

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