Police identify murder suspect

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Anthony Ray Casillas can contact Curry County Crime Stoppers at 763-7000 and remain anonymous. Clovis police will also accept information at 763-9470 or 769-1921.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ Staff Writer

Police are seeking a 21-year-old Clovis man in connection with Thursday’s double homicide.

An arrest warrant was issued Saturday for Anthony Ray Casillas, charging him with two open counts of murder, District Attorney Matt Chandler said.

Gary Payne, 52, of Melrose, and Melissa Ward, 36, of Lubbock were shot to death.

Police followed a blood trail to the Clovis Apartments near the scene of a van crash, which resulted from the homicide. They found a witness who had seen Casillas.

According to a Clovis police news release:

• The unidentified witness told police Casillas, a relative of her boyfriend, turned up at the door of her residence at the Clovis Apartments covered in blood.

• She said he kept saying he was sorry and said, “What did I just do?” The witness said Casillas left blood in her kitchen and bathroom.

• She said prior to him showing up at her residence, she heard a gunshot, a woman scream and then a “loud bang and another gunshot.”

• Another witness said Casillas admitted he was in the van with the victims and said he shot Payne first, and when Ward started screaming, he turned and shot her too.

• According to the second witness, Casillas said he broke the window out of the van and climbed out after the crash.

Police Capt. Patrick Whitney said statements regarding the window were corroborated and there was a broken window on the van.

Police believe Casillas may have fled the area, and may have headed to West Texas or Roswell, Whitney said Saturday night.

Chandler said Casillas is also wanted on a warrant out of Texas for felon in possession of a firearm in an unrelated case.

The Clovis slayings occurred around 11 p.m. Thursday as the victims traveled near Charlotte Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in west Clovis. The van the victims were found in crashed into a cinder block fence.

The slayings were the first in Clovis in 16 months.

“To protect the integrity of the investigation, very few details can be released at this time. Additional details will become available upon (Casillas’) arrest,” Chandler said.

Initially police thought Payne had been shot twice, but after an autopsy was performed Saturday, they learned each victim received a single gunshot to the head, Whitney said.

Medical investigators believe Payne suffered additional head injuries as a result of the crash.

A handgun was found on the floor of the van near the driver’s seat. Whitney said police believe the gun, a .380 semi-automatic, was used in the shooting. Two bullet casings were found in the van and a bullet was recovered during Ward’s autopsy Saturday, he said.

Witnesses reported seeing a subject flee the scene through the residential neighborhood just west of the crash scene, police said, and a bloody smudge was found on the top rail of a chain link fence near the crash.

Chandler said he could not discuss the relationship between Payne and Ward or the reason they were in west Clovis at the time of the shooting.

Police initially withheld Ward’s identity as they sought to notify her family about her death. They released her name late Friday in hopes of locating her family, but no one had come forward early Saturday evening.

How to help:

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Anthony Ray Casillas can contact Curry County Crime Stoppers at 763-7000 and remain anonymous. Clovis police will also accept information at 763-9470 or 769-1921.