COVID-19 policy at St. Louis jail raises concern

ST. LOUIS — In an exclusive interview with FOX 2 News, a woman scalded by hot soup in an alleged Jan. 4 domestic assault, called for drastic change in the City of St. Louis’ jail policies.

The suspect, Mac Payne, 36, was released within three hours of his arrest because he tested positive for COVID-19, she said.

“He grabbed me and punched me in my face,” she said of the alleged attack.


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Photos of her wounds are too gruesome to show. FOX 2 is also protecting her identity. After taking her to the floor, Payne straddled her and hit her, she said.

“I was getting up he grabbed the pot of soup that he was cooking off the stove and threw it on my face… he was armed, so I called police,” she said.

She continues to recover from burns to her neck, shoulder, and chest area. Payne is charged with two counts of felony domestic assault. He and the alleged victim have a teenage child together, who was in the home at the time of the alleged crime.

St. Louis Police are now seeking the public’s help in arresting him again. Payne was arrested right after the alleged crime. The alleged victim said that he told her was released from the downtown jail because he tested positive for COVID-19.

The day after Payne’s initial arrest and then his release, St. Louis Circuit Judge David Roither issued a warrant, saying Payne was a danger to his victim and the community. The warrant commands police to arrest Payne again and bring him before the court. That was 15 days ago.

Roither agreed with Circuit Attorney, Kim Gardner’s office, that Payne be held with “no bond allowed” pending an initial court appearance.

Payne’s attorney did not respond to questions from FOX 2 News.

“I’m not the first woman (to be attacked). I’m not going to be the last,” the alleged victim said. “COVID is not going anywhere. So, is that going to be the new ‘get out of jail free card?’”

Unrest over COVID, in part, has led to inmates escaping their cells, setting fires, and breaking glass at the jail within the past two years. The alleged victim said COVID was no reason to release violent offenders. She called on Mayor Tishaura Jones to take action.

“Mrs. Jones makes this policy. She even tried to close ‘The Workhouse’ (St. Louis’s medium-security jail) last year. It’s just crazy. I understand the problem with black men being incarcerated in America…sometimes they need to be incarcerated. This is one of those things. You are a danger to me and my child,” she said. “This is setting the tone for other men who are violent towards women. They’re watching. They’re going to say, ‘I could do this. I wonder how far I could take it.’”


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“The Workhouse” continues to be available to help isolate COVID positive arrestees, but The City of St. Louis’s Corrections Commissioner, Jennifer Clemons-Abdullah, who was appointed by Jones in September to oversee and fix problems at the downtown jail, issued a statement saying the City of St. Louis Department of Corrections was not solely responsible for which inmates get released.

“The City of St. Louis Department of Corrections (DOC) is working to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 among staff and detainees while working to keep the public safe,” she said. “While the DOC accepts COVD-positive arrestees, the DOC does not have the ultimate authority to determine whether COVID-19-positive arrestees who test positive are fit for incarceration. With input from local hospitals, as well as guidance from the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and Sheriff’s Office, the DOC makes accommodations to isolate COVID-positive detainees who have been arrested. We will continue to collaborate with these departments on a case-by-case basis.”

In this case, they got it terribly wrong, the alleged victim said.

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