Spirit of St. Louis – Pick Your Charity, Pick Your Car

Teacher defends teen killed while stealing against Facebook commenters

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ST. LOUIS (KTVI) - The former teacher of a 13-year-old killed over the weekend while breaking into a man’s car is disheartened over the lack of empathy being expressed in public.

Martinez Smith-Payne was shot Sunday morning around 12:45 a.m. in the Northpoint neighborhood. The teen was with a cousin and another friend when they entered an unlocked car parked behind a home in the 5900 block of Riverview Boulevard and began rummaging through the vehicle. The car owner, a 60-year-old man, supposedly came outside and shot at the boys, striking Smith-Payne and killing him.

Leah Patriaco, who said she once taught Smith-Payne, took to Facebook to lament comments she’s seen on social media since the incident.

“I know I shouldn't read the comments but some part of me wanted to know for sure,” she wrote.

With a lone exception, Patriaco said every comment she saw online believed the shooting was justified and apparently cast aspersions on the teen and his upbringing.

“They judge him and his mother without any attempt to see them as people or to see the broader context,” she wrote.

“…They didn't see his mom coming to meetings to help us figure out how best to help him and crying because she loved him and wanted the best for him.”

While not condoning the boy’s illegal activity, Patriaco challenged society’s response to the outcome.

“Kids do things they shouldn't. Our job is to help them make better choices not to kill them when they make mistakes,” she wrote.

The St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office has not yet decided if charges will be brought against the homeowner, due to Missouri Castle Doctrine laws, which allows homeowners to protect their property with deadly force if they feel threatened.

Meanwhile, the mother of one of the boys with Smith-Payne says the other teens not yet been charged with any crime under the juvenile code, but the case is still under investigation.

Funeral arrangements for Martinez Smith-Payne are being made through Serenity Funeral Home on Union Avenue.