We can all agree that that diamonds are simply beautiful and irresistible, almost as much as we can agree that taking such items without paying for them is just wrong and illegal. Well, apparently Doris Payne of Slab Fork, West Virginia didn’t get the memo because she has been slipping various diamond jewelry pieces into her pocket, coat, or pocketbook for over six decades.
After too many years doing what she did best, at the ripe old age of 79, Doris promised that her days of stealing were over. Unfortunately, when you have been doing something repeatedly for the majority of your life, changing your behavior can be quite difficult. Payne relapsed and was recently caught stealing a $2,000 diamond necklace from and upscale department store in Atlanta. The serial diamond thief is now 86, and aside from factors standing in her away such as her age, health situation, and future imprisonment, it doesn’t look like Doris plans on turning a new leaf any time soon.
Where It All Began
Doris Payne did not come into this world as a diamond thief. Though she did not grow up in ideal conditions, her life could have taken any path. One of six children, Doris grew up during a time where she didn’t have too many possibility and any apparent way out of her impoverished life in West Virginia and later on, Cleveland. She was told she would never fulfill her dream of being a ballerina, and was ignored and treated poorly one time while visiting a jewelry shop. That was when she realized she could exit the shop unnoticed with the watch she was trying on still on her wrist. Doris did give back the watch, but this is what introduced her to the world of jewelry theft and all of its possibilities. Payne mentioned during one of her many interviews that she didn’t steal for the diamonds and jewelry per se, but rather, for the thrill of stealing them. This is part of what has made her such an interesting character, as she never got too rich to steal, nor was she ever detained long enough to keep her from going back to her old ways.
Since her first theft in 1952, Doris has stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of jewelry. The most expensive item was a $500,000 10-carat diamond ring, which she stole from a Monte Carlo store in the 1970s. That specific gem was never found and so she was never sentenced though she was detained over a period of time. Doris has made her way across the globe, stealing from stores in Monaco, Britain, Italy, France, and Japan. In 2013 Doris stole a $22,500 ring from a store in Palm Desert, California. Playing the old woman card, Payne claimed she had $25,000 to spend, which she had won in an insurance settlement. The unsuspecting employees served her hand and foot and had no idea she had left with the valuable ring until several hours had passed. Doris was caught after she pawned the ring for $800 and left her thumbprint.
For someone who has stolen over and over again, and has been caught far less than she has stolen, Doris Payne certainly gets defensive when asked to talk about her methods. She sees her actions as spur of the moment decisions and more as an art than a scheme. Payne said that she does not regret a single theft; she only regrets getting caught. Some people have to go to far lengths when attempting to steal a diamond. For example, in Oct 2015 a Chinese woman swallowed a stone she tried to steal. Doris on the other hand, always dressed to kill and sporting some sort of designer item such as a handbag, would enter high-end shops and ask to see many different items. Given her attire and chatty demeanor, she was never suspected and was always shown a wide range of items, breaking the general rule of not taking out too many jewels at once. With so many pieces out of their safes, Doris became a pro at making one piece disappear and then leaving the store as quickly as possible.
The unusual story of Doris Payne has made her the topic of several documentaries. Even though she is getting old, is weak, and is no longer in her heyday, she shows no sign of slowing down, which makes sentencing her extremely difficult. On one hand she shows no remorse and has a horrible track record. On the other hand, she is an elderly woman in poor health, who probably does not have very much time left in this world. In the end though, theft is theft, and many people have suffered greatly from her actions and will continue to suffer if she is not stopped or if she does not change her ways soon.