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Preliminary hearing held for three facing capital murder charges

A preliminary hearing was held in on Tuscaloosa Tuesday for three individuals facing capital murder charges in the death of a Maplesville woman.

Steven Keith George, 27, of Centreville; Chylli Bruce, 18, of Brent; and Michael David Belcher, 31, of Centreville, appeared in court before Tuscaloosa District Judge James C. Guin for a preliminary hearing, according to court records.

The three are facing capital murder charges in the death of Samantha Payne.

Guin filed an order on Tuesday saying the court found probable cause that the offenses committed should be presented to a grand jury.

It is unclear when the cases will be presented to a grand jury.

Guin also ordered that Bruce, Belcher and Guin be held in custody until the cases are presented to the grand jury, according to court records.

Two others have been arrested in connection with the death of Payne including Marcus King George, 34, of Centreville and Alyssa Sue Watson, 22, of Centreville, who face charges of kidnapping first-degree.

Hunters found Payne’s body near the Tuscaloosa County and Hale County line in the Talladega National Forest around 9 a.m. Nov. 9, according to authorities with the Tuscaloosa County Homicide Unit.

Investigators are still working to determine the relationship between Payne and the suspects charged in her kidnapping and murder.

Investigators know that Payne and Belcher knew each other and were together a few days prior to Payne’s murder.

Investigators believe that Payne, Belcher, Bruce and others were together in Bibb County on the night of Nov. 1.

Authorities previously responded to a suspicious vehicle/person call on South Sandy Road, near the area where Payne’s body was found.

Bruce and Stephen George were arrested by Hale County Sheriff’s deputies for drug charges that day.

Belcher was also spotted walking nearby too, but was not arrested.

“We believe the car broke down after they were taking Payne’s body to the woods,” said Lt. Kip Hart with the Tuscaloosa Metro Homicide Unit at the time of the arrests. “Bruce and George walked to try to get some help from a guy at a shooting range nearby, and he thought it was kind of suspicious the way they were acting, so he called Hale County deputies.”

Belcher was also nearby but walking in the opposite way from Bruce and George.

“Belcher said his car broke down and he was looking for a ride,” Hart said. “Other than being a strange character, there was no reason for police to detain him or anything like that, so he was allowed to leave.”

When Payne’s body was found, deputies who encountered the three individuals earlier in the week remembered the encounter and started piecing things together.

Steven George was interviewed by investigators with the Tuscaloosa County Metro Homicide Unit while he was in the Hale County Jail on drug charges.

Court records indicate Steven George told investigators about the events leading up to Payne’s death.

Payne was last seen leaving her home to celebrate her 29th birthday on Oct. 30.

Steven George told investigators that Belcher knocked Payne out and that Belcher and Bruce tied her legs together.

She was unconscious but alive when they put her in a trunk and headed to the woods off South Sandy Road.

George said Belcher asked for his knife and he gave it to him before leaving the three of them in the woods, as he was not willing to participate in her murder.

Court records do not indicate a possible motive for Payne’s death.

An order filed earlier this week assigned Tuscaloosa Circuit Court Judge Brad Almond as the judge who will handle the capital murder cases.