A man accused of beating his housemate to death with a frying pan at an independent living facility in El Cajon has pleaded not guilty to one charge of first-degree murder.
City News Service reported Thursday that Brad Payton, 25, entered a not guilty plea in a San Diego-area courtroom for the killing of Matthew McCarthy. Payton is being held at San Diego Central Jail on bail of $2 million. He is scheduled to appear in court again on Jan. 7.
On Dec. 20, just before 5 a.m., Payton and McCarthy got into an argument at the independent living facility where they both lived on Naranca Avenue. Witnesses told police that as the conflict escalated, Payton allegedly grabbed a frying pan and struck McCarthy on the face and head.
When officers with the El Cajon Police Department (ECPD) arrived at the home, they discovered McCarthy bleeding in a bedroom, suffering from multiple injuries to his face and head. The victim was taken to Sharp Memorial Hospital where he soon died from the injuries suffered in the beating.
Payton remained at the home and was arrested that same morning. Police said Payton and McCarthy lived in separate bedrooms at the group home and knew one another.
Records obtained last week by NBC 7 show the property provides "transitional housing to single and low-income individuals with a physical or mental disability." NBC 7 reached out to the owner of the home, listed as Living Solutions and Services, Inc., but the owner did not comment on the case.
Following the deadly assault, NBC 7 spoke with neighbors who said there had been ongoing disturbances at the property.
"There are people, all around the clock, in and out," one neighbor, who did not want to be identified, told NBC 7. "They come out screaming at each other at two or three in the morning."
That neighbor said the activity surrounding the home is worrisome, especially since there are children in the neighborhood. Naranca Elementary School is located a short distance away.
She said residents from the home have asked her for money and have also knocked on her door asking to borrow random items like a pen.
The neighbor said the deadly frying pan assault elevated her concerns.
"I’m terrified. A frying pan? What if, one day, I answer the wrong thing and they go off on me, or my kid, or my dogs barking?" she added.
Another neighbor who has lived in the area for about a year told NBC 7 she often hears screaming coming from the home and said police frequent the property.
"There’s activity on a weekly basis," the woman, who also did not want to be identified, told NBC 7. "The El Cajon PD are here at least two or three times a week, addressing issues at the house. This does not surprise me -- that something actually took place because it’s a violent household."
The woman said she has seen residents of the living facility throwing items onto the driveway and knocking on neighbors' doors. She believes about six people share the home, but she said she has never seen anyone supervising the facility.
"It lacks residential supervision. You can’t put that many people with mental health issues under the same roof and expect them to behave accordingly," she said. "It doesn’t work."
McCarthy's parents, Karen and Mike McCarthy, spoke with NBC 7 immediately following the assault of their son. The pair watched as officers cordoned the home where their son had been living.
Karen said her son was "developmentally disabled" and had been living at the facility for about four to five months.
"He doesn't like to follow rules, so this is where he ended up," she added.
The McCarthys live in Pine Valley and said they visited with their son weekly. Karen said her son never had a problem with violence; she also said she was unaware of the recurring disturbances at the living facility mentioned by neighbors.
"That's news to us," she told NBC 7.
Karen said her son liked the location of the group home and never mentioned anything about any issues with his housemates. The parents said their son would talk about minor bickering over typical roommate things, but it was never anything serious.
The McCarthys said, to their knowledge, the living facility is supervised by a "house manager."
"It was my understanding that there was a house manager here but I called this morning – I spoke to him just recently – and he was at work. And, it’s like, ‘Well, how could you be the house manager if you’re at work?’" said Karen. "He said he was here and he heard nothing."