Second suspect charged in revenge killings of Texas prosecutors

Authorities charged Eric Williams with capital murder Thursday in the case of two slain prosecutors for Kaufman County, Texas. His wife is also charged, and officials say the motive was revenge.

Kaufman County Sheriff's Office/AP
This photo provided by the Kaufman County Sheriff's Office shows Eric Williams.

A Texas couple have been charged with capital murder in the deaths of a Kaufman County district attorney, his wife, and an assistant district attorney, law enforcement officials announced Thursday.

Former Kaufman County justice of the peace Eric Williams is being held on a $23 million bond, and his wife, Kim Williams, is being held on a $10 million bond in Kaufman County Jail, Sheriff David Byrnes told reporters at a news conference.

Mrs. Williams, who was arrested Wednesday, told police that she drove a getaway car for her husband when he shot Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse outside the courthouse on Jan. 31, Sheriff Byrnes said. She also admitted to being in the car when her husband shot District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia McLelland, in their home on March 30, he said.

“It was basically a collaborative effort between Eric Williams and his wife,” Sheriff Byrnes said. He said he does not believe there are “any other major actors in the case.”

Mr. Williams was arrested Saturday on a “terrorist threats” charge. He is alleged to have sent an anonymous e-mail from his personal computer to local law enforcement a day after the McLellands’ murders, threatening more attacks. Authorities added the capital murder charges Thursday in light of his wife’s confession, CNN reported.

“The murder of a public official, such as a judge, a prosecutor, or a law enforcement officer, is an assault on all the people of the state, because it's an attack of the rule of law,” Kirby Dendy, chief of the Texas Rangers, said at the press conference.

Motives for the killings, the sheriff said, can be traced to Mr. William’s legal problems in 2012, when he was found guilty of theft. Williams lost his license to practice law and his position as justice of the peace. Mr. McLelland and Mr. Hasse prosecuted the case. 

Williams appealed the verdict, reports the Associated Press. A state appeals court had agreed on March 29 to consider the appeal, a day before the McLellands were found.

The McLelland family released a statement Wednesday after speaking to the sheriff’s office about developments in the case, reported WFAA-TV in Dallas-Fort Worth.

“We are happy an arrest has been made. We would like to thank all of the law enforcement agencies, local, state, and federal, for all of their hard work and long hours spent on this case,” they wrote. “We understand this is just the beginning of a long judicial process. We want to thank everyone for their continued support during this ordeal.”

Law enforcement officials said the Williamses’ arrests will deliver justice for the citizens of Kaufman.

“I think a lot of us thought Mexican drug cartel or the Aryan Brotherhood, something like that. I never dreamed it would be three houses down from us,” Diane Childs, a neighbor, told WFAA.

Ballistics experts are testing at least 20 weapons found in a storage unit believed to belong to the Williamses, a law officer told the Associated Press under condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation. Police also found a white Ford Crown Victoria in the unit, which matches a description of a vehicle seen near the McLellands’ neighborhood about the time they were killed and also near the courthouse the day Hasse was killed.

Mr. Williams told prosecutors he was at home at the time of the killings and proclaims his innocence, reported the Dallas Morning News Thursday. The Texas public defender’s office said it expects to be appointed to the Williamses’ cases.

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