Shooting victim remembered as loving father

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

Gary Payne traveled to Lubbock on Thursday afternoon to visit his daughter and see her new house. After the visit, he headed home for Melrose, but never arrived.

Police said Payne and a Lubbock woman, Melissa Ward, were shot in the head about 11 p.m. Thursday as they drove through a West Clovis street.

Ward died at the scene. Gary Payne was flown back to Lubbock where he was placed on life support in a hospital.

“I was there with him when he died,” said his daughter, Paula Payne, 19.

“He’s been in so much pain. I know he’s in a better place now. … I just hope they find him, whoever did this.”

Gary Payne, 52, was found shot twice on the right side of his head. Ward, 36, was found in the back of the van Payne was driving. She was shot once in the head.

Police said a suspect was seen running from the scene, but no arrests had been made late Friday.

Paula Payne said her father, a disabled former truck driver, carpenter and father of four, was a hard worker and good provider for his family.

“He was a great dad. He worked his entire life to support his family,” she said. “He’s had several heart attacks and one month after he had a triple bypass he was out working to support his family.

“It didn’t matter what kind of pain he was in, he was always doing what he could to support his family.”

Officials had been unable to locate Ward’s family late Friday afternoon. They released her name to the media in hopes someone would come forward.