Kaufman residents anxiously waiting to see if murder charges will be filed

Posted Tuesday, Apr. 16, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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KAUFMAN -- While Eric Williams sits in the Kaufman County Jail on accusations of making a terroristic threat, residents are anxiously waiting to see if the former justice of the peace is going to be charged with last month's killing of the county's district attorney and his wife.

Williams is accused of emailing an anonymous threat to law enforcement officers on March 31, the day after Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, were gunned down in their home.

The threat said that "unless law enforcement officials responded to the demands of the writer, another attack would occur," according to an arrest warrant affidavit. The affidavit said Williams used "unique identifiers" found at his home to send the message. Williams, 46, a graduate of TCU and the Texas Wesleyan University law school, was arrested Saturday and is being held on $3 million bond.

At a brief courthouse ceremony Tuesday, where he accepted 172 prayer cards from the Terrell ministerial alliance, Kaufman County Judge Bruce Wood said residents are anxious for a suspect to be charged.

"We do need this nightmare to start ending and that's what we're hoping and praying for," Wood said. "We need something to occur that we will feel good about."

Lt. Justin Lewis, a Kaufman County sheriff's spokesman, said investigators were still "working leads and tips like we have been since the onset of the investigation," but declined to comment further.

Law enforcement sources have said that investigators are focused on trying to build a case against Williams in the death of McLelland and his wife, who were killed about two months after Kaufman County prosecutor Mark Hasse was gunned down while walking to work on Jan. 31.

'He never wavered'

Wood said that McLelland was steadfast in his belief that Williams was responsible for Hasse's killing, something he reiterated to Wood the Wednesday before he was killed.

"He thought that from day one," Wood said. "He never wavered. ... He said he knew he did it but he just couldn't get the evidence to prove he did it."

Kaufman resident Rita Ferguson, who lives about a mile from Williams' home, said she really doesn't feel any safer than she did when Hasse was shot in January.

"I really don't know what to think," said Ferguson, 60. "I used to think we were safe out here away from all of the problems, but it doesn't seem that way. It seems like bad stuff happens everywhere whether it's here or Boston. You aren't really safe."

If Williams is eventually charged, Ferguson said she might feel a little more relaxed, but she really isn't sure if that will be the case.

"I have mixed feelings about it," she said. "I guess it would be good to know whoever did this is off the streets. But if it is one of our own, what does that say about us? Are we really any safer than anyplace else in the country? I don't think so."

Praying for an arrest

Williams, a former Kaufman County justice of the peace, was convicted last year of stealing county computers in a case prosecuted by McLelland and Hasse. As a result, he lost his peace officer's license and his law license was revoked.

Glenda Rand, a Kaufman native and owner of Daisy's clothing store on the town square, said she is sleeping better since Williams' arrest, but has mixed feelings.

"But I don't know how I feel that it might have been one of our own who did this," Rand said. "Could three people all be dead because someone stole a computer?"

Keith Head, pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Terrell, was one of the ministers who came to Kaufman to present the prayer cards. The McLellands were members of his church and Mike McLelland was a Sunday school teacher.

"They were active in the church," Head said. "They were there every Sunday."

Since their deaths, church members have prayed for the McLelland family and tried to make sense of their deaths.

"We have done a lot of talking -- a lot of visiting," Head said. "But I think we do take some comfort that this may be close to a resolution. We have been praying for authorities to catch whoever did this."

This report includes information from Star-Telegram archives.

Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698; Twitter: @fwhanna

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