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Carnival worker accused of breaking into Moorhead house for sale, furnishing it with stolen property

Zachary Antoni Payne

MOORHEAD – Owners of a home for sale got an unexpected house-sitter and interior decorator thanks to a carnival worker who police discovered allegedly squatting in the house, which he’d furnished with items stolen from a house 11 blocks away.

According to a criminal complaint filed Friday in Clay County District Court, a Realtor who was handling the sale of a vacant house at 13½ Street North called Moorhead police on July 23 to report that it appeared someone had been breaking into the house and staying there.

Police went to the house and found no one but did discover several items in it, including a commercial vehicle medical card that was reported stolen earlier from a different home.

Detectives decided to set up an alarm system at the house. The alarm went off about 8 that night, and police found a light on and a man in a bedroom.

Police took the man, Zachary Antoni Payne, 26, to the station for an interview. He said his last address was the Salvation Army in Lawton, Okla.

Payne said he came to the Fargo-Moorhead area July 8 with the Murphy Brothers Carnival. He told detectives he quit the carnival and stayed briefly with a woman here until they argued and parted ways.

Shortly thereafter, he was walking around and noticed the front door to the house on 13½ Street was open by a few inches. He’d been staying there ever since, he told police.

Payne told police the home had no property in it when he moved in. He stole it all from a house he broke into on Second Avenue North, he told detectives.

The criminal complaint says Payne has a criminal history including larceny, accessory to robbery with a dangerous weapon, and entering a structure with intent to break and enter.

He was charged Friday in Clay County District Court with one count of second-degree burglary, a felony, plus one count of receiving stolen property and one count of trespassing, both misdemeanors.

His next court appearance is set for Aug. 8.