"He's my son, and I love him," said a tearful Patricia Payne from the witness stand. "I've lost two beautiful grand kids, but he's my son. I love him. I don't want to lose somebody else."
The step mother of Christopher Payne told jurors about the close relationship she shared with the man convicted of beating and starving his children to death.
She says he had called her 'mom' even before she married his widowed father, first meeting him as a 5-year-old boy.
As he grew up, Patricia Payne recalls how her son worked community service at an elder care facility and the compassion he showed.
"He said 'mom, I feel sorry for them. They don't have anybody. Their families don't come to visit them'," adding that her son would visit them, even after his community service stint had ended.
Payne's half-sister also testified how Christopher would protect her, staying with her when she was alone.
But family members and employers also saw changes over time, characteristic of someone using drugs.
The family also noticed the children under the care of Payne and his girlfriend, Reina Gonzales, were very thin.
Patricia Payne testifies she suggested Payne bring their children back to their mother, not because of how they were treated, but because of the living conditions of five people living in a one-bedroom apartment.
Jurors decided Wednesday Payne is eligible for the death penalty.