By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer
The mother of a transient whose body was discovered in an abandoned house last month said her family is at peace with his death and is thankful for the thoughtfulness Clovis residents showed before and after his death.
Marie Autrand of Yuma, Ariz., described her son, Howard J. Payne, as a wanderer who could never settle down.
“We knew that Howard was very happy in his life. We accepted it and as long as he was happy that was fine,” she said.
“Every mother wishes their children will go to college, but you can’t make them do what they don’t want to do. I knew (wandering was) what he wanted to do — he always knew he could come home.”
Payne’s body was discovered by local teens in an abandoned house near Wal-Mart. Police said the 52-year-old died several weeks before his remains were discovered.
There were no signs of foul play but police have said they are awaiting the results of a toxicology report before cause of death is determined.
One of six children, Autrand said Payne’s restlessness surfaced at a young age. He was smart and he made good grades, but he got bored and resisted structure.
He tried the Army, she said, but couldn’t handle the rigidity.
“He got bored at boot camp. He was too fidgety and it was too confining to him so he did something stupid to get thrown out,” she said laughing.
Autrand said she was surprised when her son got married and started a family, fathering three children, including twins. It was no surprise to her when he couldn’t make “normal” life work for him, even though he cared for his family. “He couldn’t settle down again — he didn’t have it in him.”
The children, now adults in their 20s, spent most of their lives without their father, she said.
“I guess he was never looking for anything. He was a jolly, happy guy. He was happy with his lifestyle,” she said.
The children, too, accepted who he was, she said, and are dealing with news of his death. “It hit them hard at first, but they hold no regrets towards their dad.”
Payne was a skilled construction worker, and would move from place to place, always finding work, Autrand said.
Payne contacted one of his daughters about two years ago from Albuquerque. It was the last time they heard from him. Autrand said she had not spoken to her son for around five years.
Payne’s remains were cremated.