Casillas found guilty


Jared Tucker

A Roosevelt County jury on Monday convicted Anthony Casillas of two counts of first-degree murder in the Sept. 25, 2008, shooting deaths of two people on Clovis’ west side.

Casillas, 23, shot and killed 52-year-old Gary Payne of Melrose and 36-year-old Melissa Ward of Lubbock while riding in a van on Martin Luther King Boulevard.

During closing arguments Monday, District Attorney Matt Chandler emphasized statements from Casillas allegedly claiming he wanted to know what it’s like to kill someone, witness testimony from Casillas’ roommate, and a trail of blood from the scene of the crash to Casillas’ apartment.

Chandler argued Casillas stood above Payne, while Payne was driving, and shot him in the head, execution style. Then when Ward screamed and looked at him, Chandler said Casillas shot her one time just under the left eye. After the van crashed into a wall, Casillas ran to his residence at the Clovis Apartments.

Casillas’ attorney Jesse Cosby argued his client was not the only one who asked a relative about killing someone and going to prison. Cosby said a different relative “got a rush” when talking about killing people, going to prison, and the “respect” that comes with the act.

Cosby also alleged police officials cross-contaminated evidence when processing the crime scene, and that’s how Casillas’ blood was found mixed with Gary Payne’s inside his apartment.

The jury deliberated for almost three hours before handing down their judgment.

Casillas did not testify.

“Today is a good day for the Payne family,” Chandler said after the verdict was read.

Chandler said Casillas faces 65 years in prison for the murder charges, tampering with evidence, and felon in possession of a firearm.

Sentencing will be in 60 to 90 days, according to Chandler.

The trial was moved to Portales after a mistrial was declared on Jan. 11 in Clovis because of outbursts by Casillas’ family members in the presence of jurors.