SJC sergeant jailed in custody case

Catherine Payne booked into Nassau County jail

By Francesca Amiker - Reporter, Kristin Cason - Assignment editor

Nassau County Sheriff's Office booking photo of Catherine Payne

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - A St. Johns County Sheriff's Office sergeant was arrested late Tuesday night and booked into the Nassau County jail in connection with a child custody case.

Sgt. Catherine Payne, 37, a former public information officer with the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office, was taken into custody by the Fernandina Beach Police Department after an Amber Alert was briefly issued for Payne's 6-year-old son, Reid.

Police found Reid safely, having dinner with his mother at a downtown Fernandina Beach restaurant around 7:50 p.m., after the alert was issued. Reid has been released into the custody of his father, who is a Florida Highway Patrol trooper.

Payne was booked into the Nassau County jail early Wednesday morning.  Jail records show she will be charged with kidnapping of a minor.  Her bond was set at $5,000.

Payne and Reid's father are going through a civil court issue, and Payne does not have  custody of Reid, who was reported missing from the area of 1400 North Whitney St. in St. Augustine about 8 p.m. Tuesday. 

A spokesperson for the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office said Amber Alerts typically are not issued in custody disputes because police can usually reach the parent in question to resolve any issues. The SJCSO spokesperson said Payne, who does not have custody of her son, was not supposed to be with Reid at the time, and law enforcement couldn't reach her to clear up the issue, so an Amber Alert was automatically issued.

Payne saw the alert and immediately called law enforcement to say where she was and that she would wait there to clear things up, a SJCSO spokesperson said.

Payne has been on administrative leave from the SJCSO for a couple months and does not currently have police powers.

The SJCSO will conduct an internal investigation to see if Payne purposely violated a court order regarding Reid's custody. Once that is determined, proper consequences, if any, will be administered, according to the SJCSO.

The FHP, where Reid's father works, issued this statement Tuesday: "This is a personal matter, and it's being handled appropriately through the courts."

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