Couple indicted in slaying of Texas prosecutors

Associated Press

KAUFMAN, Texas (AP) — A former justice of the peace and his wife were indicted on capital murder charges Thursday in the slayings of two North Texas prosecutors who were fatally shot earlier this year, one outside the local courthouse and the other at his home with his wife.

Eric and Kim Williams were each indicted by a Kaufman County grand jury for the deaths of Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse, District Attorney Mike McLelland and McLelland's wife, Cynthia. The couple was arrested in April for what prosecutors allege was a meticulous plot to avenge Eric Williams' conviction for stealing three county computer monitors in 2012. The conviction cost him his job and law license.

Eric Williams also was indicted for making a terroristic threat, a charge related to an email sent to authorities vowing future violence against county employees. The email was allegedly traced to a computer in the Williams home.

The couple could face the death penalty, said the county's current district attorney, Erleigh Norville Wiley. The former judge declined to take questions about the case but thanked law enforcement personnel who assisted in the investigation.

"We join with the families, the county and all of those affected by these deaths in the prayer that justice will be done," she said.

The Williamses, both 46, have been in the county jail southeast of Dallas since their arrests. Eric Williams is being held on a $23 million bond, while his wife's bond is $10 million.

Hasse was fatally shot as he walked to work in January, while the McLellands were gunned down in their home two months later.

Authorities allege that Eric Williams was the gunman in both cases. His wife, investigators say, was the driver when her husband shot Hasse on the street outside the county courthouse and was a passenger when her husband drove to the McLellands' home to carry out those killings in March.

Kim Williams confessed to her role in the crimes, according to the warrant issued at the time of her arrest.

Her court-appointed attorney, Paul Johnson, declined to comment Thursday until he had time to review the indictments. Eric Williams's lead attorney, Matthew Seymour, didn't immediately return a phone message, and John Wright, an attorney working with Seymour, said he's prohibited from talking to the media without approval from his supervisors.

The arrest warrants describe a revenge plan in which Eric Williams rented a storage unit in a friend's name to hide a cache of weapons and a car that authorities said was tied to the McLelland killings.

Eric Williams practiced law in Kaufman for more than a decade, specializing in family-related cases. He was elected to his judicial post in 2010, but he lost the $53,000-a-year position and his law license when he was convicted of stealing the computer monitors.

During the highly contentious trial, McLelland and Hasse portrayed Williams as a dishonest public official with a dangerous streak. At sentencing, they presented evidence indicating Williams had made death threats against another local attorney and a former girlfriend.

Although the two prosecutors sought prison time for Williams, he ultimately received probation.

The murder case is being prosecuted by two Dallas attorneys, Toby Shook and Bill Wirskye. Wiley said Thursday that neither she nor her assistants will take active roles to avoid issues that might detract from the case or delay it.

Shook and Wirskye, criminal defense attorneys who both previously served as Dallas County prosecutors, were appointed after Hasse's slaying on McLelland's recommendation.

Wiley also said the district judge who set bond in the case, Michael Chitty, has recused himself and that a visiting judge will be sought. Chitty presided over Eric Williams' trial in the computer monitor theft case.

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