Man arrested in Maryville murder

Man arrested and charged in Maryville homicide case

Bryan Kevin Thomas (source: Blount County Sheriff's Office) Bryan Kevin Thomas (source: Blount County Sheriff's Office)

6 News Reporter

MARYVILLE (WATE) - Police on Saturday made an arrest in the murder of a Maryville man.

Bryan Kevin Thomas, 37, was arrested and charged with criminal homicide in the beating death of Steven Payne, 35.

Maryville Police Chief Tony Crisp says Payne was found in his apartment at 221 W. Broadway Street on Thursday around 8 p.m.

Payne was the assistant general manager at Aubrey's Restaurant in Maryville.

Chief Crisp says Payne had received several blows to the face and head with a blunt object. He was found on his couch. They think he was murdered early Wednesday morning.

Thomas is from Sevierville and has a criminal history.

Investigators say Thomas and Payne had known each other for several years. In fact, they grew up on the same street in Blount County.

The investigation began when Payne did not show up to Thanksgiving dinner with his family. Police say the door to his home was locked and his car still parked in the driveway.

"He was very close to his mother, grandmother, aunts and cousins," says Jody Slimp, a close friend of Payne's. He's also the general manager of Aubrey's Restaurant in Maryville.

Relatives called police to Payne's apartment where officers say they had to jimmy the lock to get inside. Family members were there when police went into the home and discovered Payne's body.

"The motive was theft. There was a large flat screen TV and a DVD player in his apartment. Both those items were taken from his apartment. We found the TV and the DVD player in a Knoxville apartment," said Chief Crisp.

Detectives found out Thomas had exchanged the electronics for drugs.

They believe Payne had picked up Thomas and a female friend and brought them into his apartment the night he was murdered. After the crime, detectives believe Thomas locked the door to the apartment.

At Aubrey's Restaurant, where Steven was a well known and popular staff member, there's a wreath hanging at the front door in his memory. There are also many flower arrangements near the entrance, sent by many who love him and are saddened by his death.

"When Steven was in the dining room, people were drawn to him. There were a lot of tears and a lot of hugs here," said Slimp.

Slimp says Payne was a genuinely nice and fun loving guy. His last Facebook status update talks about enjoying the new Harry Potter movie.

Most of all, those who knew Steven say he loved to travel. He had recently been to Italy and Jamaica, and planned to leave to Key West on a vacation in a week.

"You have sadness and you have pain as well. You question how something like this would happen. He's such a kind person," said Slimp.

Other arrests have been made in this case. Investigators have not released those details yet.

Thomas is being held at the Blount County jail on a $750,000 bond. He is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on December 7.

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