Amarillo has a dark side.  It has many secrets and many insane things that have happened over the years.

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We are stepping back into the dark side of Amarillo circa 1930.  It's a story of a man who just didn't want to be married anymore and decided that instead of getting a divorce, which was taboo back then, he would find a way to get rid of his wife.

What does a man do to make his wife go away in Amarillo in 1930?

Alfred Day Payne, Sr. was a prominent civil attorney in Amarillo in 1930.  He, his wife Exa, his 11-year-old son, A.D. Jr., and two daughters lived in the home located at 3711 Fountain (which today is Fountain Terrace).  One day Exa and A.D. Jr. were driving down the street when the car exploded.  Exa was killed in the explosion, and A.D. Jr. was severely injured.

The blast was so big that it tore the car from the chassis, and killed Mrs. Payne instantly.  Her body was not found intact and pieces of her were blasted all over the area where the car exploded.  A.D. Jr. was blown from the car, his arm, and leg were almost detached from his body, and his face was mangled.

This happened on June 27, 1930, right here in Amarillo.

At the time, no one could understand why anyone would want to harm Exa Payne and her child.

The police started an immediate investigation and found that what looked to be a bomb was placed under the driver's seat of the car.   According to news reports from that era, the investigation found dry cell battery pieces in the car and blast area.   The bomb was believed to be made from TNT.

Payne had reached out to police a few months earlier stating a threat had been made on his life during a case, but that was settled.  The news reports also mentioned that Payne had told friends that his son had been looking for dynamite caps for the July 4th holidays, but he had warned him against it.

It's funny how that all fell into place when it was Payne himself who had planted the bomb in his wife's car, killing her and severely injuring his son.

A stenographer who worked at the law office confessed to the police that she and Payne were having an affair.  Not long after that confession, Payne was arrested for his wife's murder.  However, this wasn't his first attempt to kill Exa, Payne had been plotting and trying to kill her for 18 months.  Apparently, he wasn't very fond of his son either.  Payne confessed to the whole plot and killing his wife.  He composed a significantly large written confession.

Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

After the confession and asking for death, Payne found a way to kill himself while sitting in jail.  Somehow he got his hands on some explosives and concocted a plan to end his life, after writing letters to his mother, and his wife's mother and finishing his diary.  Payne blew himself up on Saturday, August 30, 1930, at 12:21 am, in the Potter County Jail.

Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Was justice served for Exa Payne and her son A.D. Jr.? Not really.  Payne was a coward when he killed his wife and an even bigger one when he killed himself.  This man destroyed an entire family including his children and rocked the Amarillo community to its core.

One of his requests that he left in his diary, was that he wanted to be buried next to Exa, however, that final request was not granted.  Exa Payne was buried in Memorial Park in Amarillo, and after Payne died, his remains were buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Tulia, far away from Exa.

Through research, it looks as if A.D. Jr. lived a long life, not without complications obviously, he passed in 2004 at the age of 85.

What a crazy, insane story, of lust, a passion for explosives, and murder.  Who knew an attorney could know so much about making bombs?

Amarillo On

I was surprised to find out recently that we also have a bit of a history with the show America's Most Wanted.

Digging through old news articles, I found several separate occasions where Amarillo and America's Most Wanted crossed paths. It makes me wonder if there are some that I've missed.

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