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Police in Hickory have arrested a man they believe was involved in a string of armed robberies at local restaurants since August.
Christopher Payne, 21, is accused of two armed robberies at the Burger King on Springs Road and five counts of kidnapping for allegedly moving employees to the back of the restaurant at gunpoint.
"These charges are not on the right person," Payne told Judge Greg Hayes in court on Monday morning.
Payne, in chains and wearing a jail jumpsuit, was there for a first appearance and to ask for a court appointed attorney.
He looked to friends and family in the courtroom and mouthed the words "I didn't do it" and "I love you."
One of his friends was ejected from the courtroom during one of the exchanges.
Payne's wife Angel said the charges were wrong. "He didn't do it," she said tearfully outside the courtroom. "He works for a freaking living and he has a wife and a child at home and now he's sitting in here for nothing."
Angel said she thought the arrest was the result of an informant.
"That's what I was told," she said.
In fact, search warrants obtained by WBTV news indicate that information from a confidential informant was indeed what led authorities to Payne. The warrants state that the informant reported to police that Angel Payne told him her husband had robbed seven restaurants.
The warrants also said the Payne himself went to police and implicated another individual. No charges have been filed against that person.
Payne is jailed under a $400,000 bond.
He told the judge he would not be able to gather enough money to pay it and would remain in jail.
The judge advised Payne that he could face 199 months in prison for each armed robbery conviction and up to 98 months for each count of kidnapping. An attorney was appointed to represent him.
Hickory police are still investigating the cases and more charges could be filed against Payne, they said. Authorities are asking anyone with information to contact the Hickory Police Department.