By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer
Prosecutors say Anthony Ray Casillas shot two people because he wanted to see what it felt like to kill.
But his lawyer says Casillas’ behavior was too absurd to have been planned, implying alcohol and drugs may have influenced him the night Gary Payne and Melissa Ward died.
Casillas, 23, is accused of shooting and killing Payne, 52, of Melrose, and Ward, 36, of Lubbock as the trio drove in a van on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard the night of Sept. 25, 2008.
Charged with first-degree murder, he faces a maximum of two consecutive life sentences if convicted.
Opening arguments in the double-homicide began Tuesday.
Prosecutor Andrea Reeb told jurors Casillas and Payne, who worked together with a crew covering silage, had a history.
“This happened because he (Casillas) just didn’t like Gary Payne and he wanted to see what it felt like to kill,” Reeb said.
Reeb said evidence will show Casillas — seated in the back of the van — shot Payne once in the head, then shot Ward in the head as she turned around in her seat toward him and screamed.
Reeb said Casillas fled the van by kicking out a window.
Defense Attorney Jesse Cosby says Casillas’ actions were not those of a person who planned the shootings.
Cosby also said he plans to show police collected evidence incorrectly.
Cosby said police dusted bloody prints in the van with fingerprint powder, destroying blood evidence.
“The behavior of this individual (Casillas) was so absurd. … None of this is consistent with someone killing to find out what it’s like to shoot someone,” Cosby said.
Witnesses heard the first shot, Reeb said, followed by Ward’s screams, then heard a second shot and saw flashes of light inside the van before it crashed into a cinderblock wall along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
When bystanders looked in the van, they found Payne clinging to life in the driver’s seat, Ward lifeless on the floor in the back and the passenger window shattered.
Payne died later at a Lubbock hospital.
Inside the blood saturated van, Reeb said police discovered a .380 caliber handgun that had been fired, two spent bullet casings matching the gun and a bag with Casillas’ identification and personal items.
An upside-down, bloody hand print on the outside of the passenger window was determined to be made in Casillas’ blood, Reeb said, part of a blood trail he left as he fled the van.
Police say Casillas fled to a nearby apartment rented by his cousin’s girlfriend, leaving a trail of his and Payne’s blood. They say Casillas slept overnight and fled to Roswell the next morning.
Reeb said 20 witnesses are expected to testify in the five-day trial.