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Lehigh Acres man found guilty of 2019 Palm Beach County murder

Posted at 2:04 PM, Mar 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-11 14:17:12-05

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Jurors found 50-year-old Neville George Anthony Bethune guilty of first-degree murder with a firearm, arson in the second-degree, and accessory after the fact to first-degree murder.

Neville George Anthony Bethune

They deliberated for about an hour following a five-day trial in Lee County.

Police say hours before the murder, in 2019, the victim, James Michael Payne, had visited the defendant at his Lehigh Acres home to collect money owed to him. The victim spoke with the defendant and another man, co-defendant, Andrew Maldonado.

Deputies with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office later found the victim’s body, burned beyond recognition, in the trunk of a car, near South Bay, a city in Palm Beach County.

Surveillance video from a nearby gas station captured Bethune, his brother Donovan Baker, also a co-defendant, and Maldonado in the area that night.

The three were arrested following an investigation by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and the Lee County Sheriff’s Office. The U.S. Marshals also assisted in the case.

Bethune is scheduled to be sentenced on March 28th.

Co-defendant Maldonado is awaiting sentencing for his role in the case. Co-defendant Baker is pending prosecution in Palm Beach County.