Tucson woman pleads guilty in death of two children

Published: Aug. 25, 2008 at 5:37 PM MST|Updated: Sep. 4, 2008 at 11:50 PM MST
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By Tricia Daly and Som Lisaius - email

A Tucson woman accused along with her boyfriend of killing his two children, cut a deal with prosecutors Monday.

Reina Gonzales pleaded guilty to two counts of second degree murder; she will serve 22 years in prison.

Gonzales also agreed to testify against the children's father, Christopher Payne.  For all practical purposes that process began Monday, as Gonzales told the court what those kids went through--being starved, beaten and locked inside a closet before they died.

"I know he wasn't giving them food or water," Gonzales said, tearfully.  "I told him what he was doing wasn't right and he told me not to worry about it, that these were his children."

The body of four-year-old Ariana Payne was discovered in a storage locker last year.  The body of her 5- year-old brother, Tyler, was never found.

Gonzales and Payne were indicted on charges of first-degree murder and child abuse. Payne also is charged with abandonment or concealment of a body.

Payne's trial is expected to begin in January. Prosecutors hope to use Gonzales' testimony to get the death penalty for Payne.