A judge has sentenced an Alabama man to die for his part in the drug-fueled torture and murder of a friend in 2015.
Tuscaloosa County Circuit Judge Brad Almond imposed the death penalty on 34-year-old Michael Belcher during a hearing Wednesday.
Belcher was convicted of capital murder last month after two hours of deliberations in the slaying of 29-year-old Samantha Payne, who authorities say was tortured to death and had her throat slit.
Evidence showed Payne was beaten for hours in November 2015 by people she considered her friends. Her throat was cut and she was tied naked to a tree and left in the Talladega National Forest.
Prosecutors say Belcher was the ringleader of a group of five people who killed Payne while they all were using methamphetamine. He is the only one who got the death penalty.
Belcher's defense team cried foul over what they characterized as a 'sentencing disparity' between the co-defendants, arguing that their client was no more culpable than the others, yet he was the only one being sentenced to die.
Police in Alabama said in 2015 that Payne left her parents' home in Maplesville on October 30 - her birthday - and was never seen alive again.
Court documents stated that she was brutally assaulted at the home of Belcher on Halloween weekend, WIAT reported at the time.
nvestigators believe Payne was attacked after she became angry at her friends for stealing her car, which was later found burned.
Payne was then tied up and taken into the forest, where she had her hair and nails ripped out, and several teeth knocked out.
Hunters came upon Payne's disfigured and decomposing body in mid-November.
During a sentencing hearing last month, Belcher's mother and his attorney begged the jury for mercy and showed pictures of the defendant as a child.
They painted a picture of the convicted killer as a caring father to his 11-year-old daughter, an animal lover and a skilled mechanic who could have a positive impact on other inmates, if given a life sentence instead of the death penalty.
'Putting Michael Belcher to death is not going to bring Samantha Payne back to her family. Don't let the state of Alabama make you a killer,' defense attorney Nettie Blume said. 'Y’all can give mercy. It can’t be earned. It can’t be begged for. It can only be granted.'
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Michael Belcher, 34, was convicted of capital murder last month in the 2015 slaying of Samantha Payne, 29, who authorities say was tortured, had her throat slit and was left tied to a tree by her friends.