EXCLUSIVE: The story behind Cody Payne’s burglary arrest as told by the victim

When Substream was alerted to the news that former the Dangerous Summer guitarist Cody Payne was recently arrested for burglary, we reached out to the victim as listed on the official police report: an Austin, Texas-based musician named Jacob Lawter, who plays under the stage name Slow And Steady. It needs to be noted that Payne has yet to be convicted on any of the charges levied against him, and in the American justice system, you are innocent until proven guilty. Substream takes no side in this dispute beyond reporting facts based on public record, which is why our original story was filed under “news” and this is filed under “editorial.” What follows is Lawter’s version of events regarding the incident, edited for clarity. Payne has yet to respond to our requests for comment. —Scott Heisel, editor in chief

I began the process of relocating to Texas for work on January 1, 2014. After a little bit of traveling work (living out of a hotel), I finally settled in Austin in May of last year. With very little knowledge of the city and a limited timeframe to find a suitable place, I secured an apartment that is probably way out of my reasonable price range, in a nice neighborhood just south of downtown. Between finishing writing a record and working nonstop, I didn’t have much time to do anything but keep to myself. I can count my Austin acquaintances on two hands, and my friends on one. All of this is completely okay with me, but I begin this way to prove a point: I keep to myself, I bother no one, I have no enemies and I haven’t given anyone a reason to harbor any sort of ill will against me.

Fast-forward to December 2014. I flew to South Carolina a few days before Christmas to be with my friends and family for the holidays and to recharge from the most hectic and challenging year of my life so far. A few days into my trip while at a bachelor party for a friend’s wedding, I received a call from a close friend in Austin that was watching over my cat while I was out of town. She proceeded to tell me that she had come to my apartment to find everything in disarray. I had been robbed. My guitar amps, pedals, television, Xbox—basically everything that can be plugged into the wall—was gone. Not only were those high-priced, commonly stolen items gone, but in addition to that, 99 percent of my sizable record collection was gone. My cat was gone. The entire place was a mess, as the intruder had dumped a laundry detergent bottle in the floor and covered my entire living room in fragrant blue goo.

Needless to say, I was completely devastated. My beloved pet, my guitar gear that I acquired over years and most of the rest of the belongings I worked hard to purchase for myself were gone. Not only that, but I was halfway across the country, completely helpless in the whole situation. I stayed for the rest of my trip, albeit completely crushed, and flew back out to Austin several days later.

After returning home to Austin, my cat actually returned home as well! She spent about 10 days outside (she is an indoor cat) in the coldest weather of the year up until that point with no food, water or shelter. When she returned she was gaunt in figure and very malnourished, as well as generally terrified. She ate nonstop for several days and thankfully returned mostly to normal after a week or so.

Soon after, I began the lengthy process of cataloging all of the things that were missing. The most grueling part of that process was sifting through online lists of my record collection to figure out exactly which ones were gone and how much to claim for them. While searching for some of the records on Discogs, I came across one being sold at a shop here in town that was rather rare and it seemed odd that it would be online anywhere, much less at a store here in Austin. Naturally I called the store, only to find that a lot of other records that once belonged to me were brought in at the same time as this particular one, by the same person. I never expected to have any information to give to the detective in charge of my case, but this was obviously worth mentioning, so I gave him a call.

Several days later, I received a call from the detective in charge of my case informing me that he had a positive ID on the person who had burglarized my home. I was brought in to see a photo of the perpetrator and to sign a statement affirming that I hadn’t authorized this person to enter my home or to take my belongings. This day was the first time I ever saw Cody Payne’s face or heard his name. Hearing his name meant nothing to me at the time, but then the detective informed me that not only did this person live in my apartment complex, but he actually lived in the apartment directly above me. I want to reemphasize that I have never met, spoken to, looked at or heard of Cody Payne prior to these events.

A quick Google search got me up to speed on who this guy was in about five minutes. To have everything you own stolen from you by your upstairs neighbor is pretty unbelievable, but I think what was more upsetting than that is that he is a fellow musician. The majority of us are all participating in the same hustle: Work a day job you’d probably rather not work to financially fuel your very expensive yet fulfilling hobby. The idea of depriving anyone of the fruits of their efforts seems so preposterous to me.

He was arrested a week or so later, around January 23. The charge amounted to a handful of felony charges, one second degree felony (the items stolen amounted to almost $10,000 by the time I priced all of the records) and several other felony charges of false statement for credit (the criminal term for selling something that does not belong to you). He was released on bail soon after his arrest and is awaiting trial. The detective informed me that while he was in custody, he provided a full confession and that it was recorded, although according to the detective, he attempted to retract that confession later via email to the detective stating something along the lines of “I have no recollection of being arrested. If you would like to discuss the items I purchased from my neighbor, please get in touch with me.” I don’t think it really has to be said, but I will do it anyway: I have never met Cody Payne in my life and I certainly did not authorize him to enter my home or take my belongings, and at no point was any money or other goods/services received in exchange for my belongings.

Since his arrest and subsequent release, my personal vehicle has been vandalized on two separate occasions in my apartment parking lot. I have not at any point made any contact with Cody—no retaliation, no gloating, no provocation of any kind. Of course there is no concrete evidence to implicate him in the case of my car being vandalized, but I am not an idiot. I have no enemies, my car is already a complete piece of shit anyway, there is nothing of value inside of it, I drive and park courteously 100 percent of the time and do not engage in road rage. The odds of it happening on two separate occasions since his arrest, having never occurred before in my entire life, and it not being him are about a million to one. I feel personally targeted and I have done absolutely nothing to deserve it.

From what I understand, a lot of the music community isn’t the biggest fan of Cody Payne. I don’t know the guy and I don’t know the truth about anything he has done in his past, and I honestly don’t care. What I do know beyond a shadow of a doubt is that he broke into my apartment, stole and then sold most of my belongings, along with letting my cat outside in harm’s way in a big city. There is no place in the music community—or any community for that matter—for someone that would invade a stranger’s home and take all of their stuff.