CLOVIS, NM (KCBD) - On Friday, a New Mexico judge sentenced Anthony Casillas, 24 to serve two life sentences, plus five and a half years in prison for the September 2008 shooting that killed Melissa Ward, 36 of Lubbock. Gary Payne, 52 of Melrose, New Mexico was also killed.
Ninth Judicial District Attorney Matthew Chandler issued this release:
Anthony Casillas, age 24, was sentenced today by the Court to serve a maximum sentence of two life sentences plus 5 ½ years for the double murder of Gary Payne and Melissa Ward. The Court ordered consecutive sentences of two life terms for the two-counts of First Degree Murder; four (4) years for the one-count of Tampering with Evidence; and eighteen (18) months for one-count of Possession of a Firearm by a Felon. A Curry County jury found Casillas guilty of these crimes on August 9, 2010, but sentencing was postponed until today.
The case stems from an incident that occurred on September 25, 2008, in Clovis, when at approximately 11:00 p.m. Clovis Police responded to 911 calls reporting a van crashed into a cinderblock wall. At the scene, officers discovered two gunshot victims in the van and evidence that a shooter had fled the scene already. The driver, Gary Payne, age 52, and the passenger, Melissa Ward, age 36, both were pronounced dead within hours of the crash. The Ninth Judicial District's Major Crimes Unit was activated and began conducting an in-depth investigation. One week later, officers located the defendant in Roswell, New Mexico and placed him under arrest.
District Attorney Matthew Chandler and Chief Deputy District Attorney Andrea Reeb prosecuted the case for the State of New Mexico and Judge Robert Orlik presided over the proceedings. Judge Orlik ordered that Anthony Casillas serve two life sentences, back to back, plus an additional 5 ½ years in prison following the two consecutive life sentences. The sentence is the maximum sentence allowed by law.
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