Body found near Wal-Mart

Clovis detectives Jay Longley (left), Waylon Rains (center) and Ricky Smith wait for a search warrant outside an abandoned home where a body was discovered this morning.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

Police are attempting to identify a badly decomposed body found Tuesday morning in an abandoned house near Wal-Mart.

There were no immediate signs of foul play, Clovis Police Capt. Patrick Whitney said Tuesday afternoon. However, Whitney said because of the extensive decomposition, only a medical examiner can determine time and cause of death.

Whitney said in the meantime, it has to be investigated as if it were a homicide.

An identification card and paperwork belonging to Howard J. Payne, 52, were found near the body, Whitney said.

Police have been unable to determine if the corpse is Payne.

An expired public assistance account and hospital records indicated Payne had been in Clovis for at least several months, according to Whitney. Police also believe Payne had ties to California, he said.

The body had been in the house at 701 Arizona near the southeast corner of the Wal-Mart parking lot for weeks before it was discovered based on advanced decomposition, Whitney said.

The deceased appeared to have been living in the house based on food wrappers from nearby restaurants in the area where the body was located.

Police believe the deceased might have been a transient seen frequently in the area. He would sit on curbs near the entrance to Wal-Mart with a sign asking for assistance.

Whitney said the sign was also found in the house near the body.

People at nearby businesses told police they had not seen the man with the sign for several weeks.

The deceased was found face down on a carpet in a bedroom area of the house Monday by two local teens who had gone into the house, Whitney said. Around 8 a.m. Tuesday they went to the police department to report the discovery.

Whitney said the youths told police they went in the house because they had heard it was haunted and wanted to check it out.

“Unfortunately they got a little more of a scare than they bargained for,” Whitney said.

“They were scared because they figured they found a dead body and they weren’t supposed to be in there anyway,” he said. The teens later decided to come forward and tell someone.

Rebecca Carlyle, owner of Signature Cosmetics next to the vacant house, said she knew of a homeless man who had taken shelter there. She said she and her staff frequently walk the dog of an employee through the abandoned lot and had encountered the man before.
She said they have not seen him for more than a month.

Carlyle said the man seemed harmless and they had become accustomed to him being there though they never spoke with him.
“He was just taking shelter,” she said.