Homicide suspect had conflicts with victim

Anthony Ray Casillas

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

There was a history of friction between homicide victim Gary Payne and the man accused of shooting him, according to people who worked for a silage company with the two men.

Payne and Anthony Ray Casillas worked together with a crew that traveled throughout eastern New Mexico covering silage for an unnamed company, according to a supplemental police report released Monday.

Casillas and Payne “were always at each other,” a witness told police.

Casillas, 21, surrendered to police in Roswell on Friday. He was wanted on two open counts of murder in connection with the Sept. 25 shooting deaths of Payne, 52, of Melrose and 36-year-old Melissa Ward of Lubbock.

Police have said the three were traveling in a van near Clovis’ Charlotte Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard when Payne and Ward were each shot once in the head.

According to an arrest warrant released from district court Monday, Casillas told a witness he shot Payne, the driver, and when Ward screamed, he turned and shot her.

Another witness told police of friction between Payne and Casillas, who had worked together a couple of months.

He recounted an incident about two weeks before the shooting while the pair were working in Roswell. Payne bet Casillas he could not throw a tire over a pole he pointed out and when Casillas succeeded, Payne refused to pay on the bet, making Casillas angry, the supplemental police report said.

Payne also told the witness Casillas had once threatened to kill him; the witness said Casillas always carried a blue .380 pistol, which the officer noted matched the description of a handgun found in the van after the shooting, the report said.

Payne picked up Ward in her Lubbock neighborhood earlier in the day before the shooting and brought her to Clovis.

Ward had told people Payne was going to get her work with a silage company in the Clovis area.

Witnesses and coworkers of Payne and the defendant told police they did not know of a reason Payne, Ward and Casillas would have been riding together.

District Attorney Matt Chandler said investigators know what brought the three together that night but declined comment in the interest of preserving the integrity of the case.

Chandler also declined to comment on a possible motive in the case.

His office will be presenting its case against Casillas to a grand jury Friday and is seeking two charges of first-degree murder, tampering with evidence and felon in possession of a firearm, he said.