Infamous Jewelry Thief Doris Payne Talks Origins, Attitude

Doris Payne has mugshots that trace her alleged criminal activity back to the 1950s. (CBS).

ATLANTA (CBS) —  Infamous international jewel thief Doris Payne is now a free woman.

A judge dismissed theft charges against the 87-year-old woman on Monday (Oct. 17) after a shoplifting incident at a local Walmart.

Seconds after Payne found out her shoplifting case out of Chamblee was dismissed, she didn’t have much to say about the charge.

“I’ve done everything but pee in the street to get attention, to get the money, to get it,” Payne said.

Shifting the conversation, we talked about a possible book and her dream of helping foster children.

“I already know that there’s one coming, I wouldn’t have said it if I didn’t,” she said. “Any and all money I ever get from a book will go in that fund.”

But CBS 46 wanted more, to understand the real Doris Payne beyond the grainy mugshots and piles of police reports. We talked in her living room in an unfiltered, unapologetic interview.

“I’m not a proverbial liar,” she said, “even though I’m a thief.”

She admits to decades of pilfering with pleasure, taking millions of dollars-worth of jewelry, so we asked the question many are thinking: why?

“I wanted the money,” she said. “I wanted to get my mom. Did you hear that? Just that simple.”

When asked if her most recent exploits were also to take care of her mother, she replied, “No, that was to get the attention of the media, the right media not such as you.

“I didn’t start stealing at 14. I practiced stealing. I practiced taking, going to jewelry stores, insignificant all over West Virginia.”

In the last three years, Payne has been in and out of Metro Atlanta jails, arrested for trying to steal anywhere from $80 to $2,000 worth of merchandise. If you ask her, she’s never been caught.

“Ain’t no policeman said I was ever caught stealing in a jewelry store entering or leaving,” she said. “That’s a lie somebody made up.”

Payne has stolen about $2 million in jewelry over 60 years.

“The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne,” is a 2013 documentary that detailed how Payne’s theft habits began when she was in her 20s.