Jewel Thief Up For Early Release Fights To Stay In Prison

Doris Payne Serving 5-Year Sentence For Stealing Diamond Ring From Fashion Valley Macy's

An international jewel thief who is eligible for early release is fighting to stay in prison, according to her attorney.

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Doris Payne had a six-decade career as a jewel thief, stealing from stores in Paris and Monte Carlo. In January 2011, she was convicted of stealing a diamond ring valued at nearly $9,000 dollars from the Macy's at Fashion Valley Mall in Mission Valley and was later sentenced to prison.

"I didn't start out stealing jewelry," she told 10News in a February interview. "I started out making the salesperson forget it. It was fun."

Payne’s attorney, Gretchen Von Helms said, "She would sort of beguile people out of their jewelry or lift it without anybody looking.”

Von Helms receives regular letters from Payne. In one written three weeks ago, Payne talks about inhaling pepper spray during an inmate fight saying, "so I'm really breathing harshly."

Another letter boasts about the ring she stole during the 1960's in Pasadena where "the prime suspect became Margherite Mays" – the wife of baseball legend Willie Mays – who was mistakenly arrested.

"Sometimes she's down, you can tell from her writing, and sometimes she's up," said von Helms.

Von Helms fought to keep her then 80-year-old client out of prison but in court, Payne was defiant.

"You know, if you're going to give me the death penalty I'm going to stand on the truth," said Payne in court.

The judge sentenced her to five years for the Mission Valley theft. Now, Payne is eligible for release.

"She doesn't have anywhere to go, so she's staying in there," said von Helms.

Von Helms said she has seen this before.

"If they're down and out, have no other resources, have no place to live, police have indicated crime will go up," she said.

A book about Payne's life is in the works as is a movie, which has Halle Berry cast as Payne.

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