Judge: Casillas considering surrender

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

Double-homicide suspect Anthony Ray Casillas wants to surrender, according to a Texas judge who said he has been in contact with the suspect’s mother.

Moore County Judge Rowdy Rhoades, whose office until three weeks ago was monitoring Casillas twice weekly as part of a pre-trial release agreement, said he has spoken to the suspect’s mother as recently as Tuesday. She told him her son is afraid.

“His mom has visited with him several times. I know that she feels like it was (a) self-defense type issue. … She wants to prove his innocence. They’re already looking to get legal counsel,” Rhoades said.

“I know he’s probably scared, (but) he needs to slow down a little bit and think about it because the best thing he can do is turn himself in.”

Casillas, 21, is wanted in connection with the shooting deaths of a 52-year-old Melrose man and a 36-year-old Lubbock woman Thursday night in Clovis.

District Attorney Matt Chandler declined to address a theory of self-defense.

“If Mr. Casillas would like to turn himself in, he has nothing to fear from law enforcement,” Chandler said.

In the meantime, law enforcement in West Texas and eastern New Mexico are continuing their search for Casillas.

Casillas’ mother could not be reached for comment.

Dumas, the county seat for Moore County, is located about 150 miles northeast of Clovis.

Clovis law enforcement issued a warrant for Casillas on Saturday and officials believe he fled to either West Texas or Chaves County in New Mexico, where he has extensive family.

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

Gary Payne and Melissa Ward had each been shot once in the head. Police believe Casillas was in the van, which was registered to Payne.

Police said Casillas told a witness he shot Payne and shot Ward when she started screaming.

Casillas is charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in Moore County, Rhoades said, and had been released with an ankle bracelet to await trial. Rhoades said Casillas may still be wearing an ankle bracelet device, which monitors alcohol consumption and when he checks in at home. The judge said the device does not track Casillas’ whereabouts.

Rhoades said he has visited with Casillas in the Moore County courthouse.

He described him as confident and “hyper” with an enthusiasm for tattoos. Casillas told the judge he wanted to be a tattoo artist.

About three weeks ago, Rhoades said Casillas relocated to Clovis.

• Anthony Ray Casillas is described as a Hispanic male, with black hair and brown eyes, approximately 5-feet, 5-inches tall, weighing approximately 120 pounds. Police said it is possible Casillas has tried to alter his appearance to avoid capture.

Anyone with information on his whereabouts can contact Curry County Crime Stoppers at 763-7000 and remain anonymous, or the Clovis Police Department at 763-9470 or 769-1921.