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Texas Gov. Perry to hold briefing on slayings, speak at memorial

April 04, 2013|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske
  • A plaque outside the Kaufman County Courthouse in Kaufman, Texas. Gov. Rick Perry was scheduled to hold a briefing Thursday.
A plaque outside the Kaufman County Courthouse in Kaufman, Texas. Gov.… (Tony Gutierrez )

KAUFMAN, Texas — This North Texas community about 35 miles east of Dallas prepared early Thursday to mourn the sudden loss of Dist. Atty. Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia.

McLelland, 63, and his wife, 65, were gunned down at their home in nearby Forney on Saturday, less than two months after another Kaufman County prosecutor, Mark Hasse, 57, was shot and killed outside the courthouse.

So far, no arrests have been made in connection with either shooting, authorities said.

The courthouse was scheduled to close at 11 a.m. so that staff could attend a public memorial for the McLellands at First Baptist Church in Sunnyvale, about 30 miles north.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry planned a briefing outside the courthouse at 11:15 a.m. with officials from Kaufman County, the FBI and Texas Department of Public Safety. Afterward, Perry was expected to speak at the McLellands’ memorial.

On Wednesday, the Republican governor told Fox News that it was too early to speculate about who was behind the killings, but he appeared to suggest that he suspects Mexican cartels. Some experts have raised that possibility because of how methodically the slayings appear to have been carried out.

“We know the drug cartels are very, very active in our country now. It goes back … to the whole issue of border security and the failure of the federal government to put the men and women, whether they are military or whether they’re Border Patrol or whether working with the local law enforcement, expend the dollars necessary to secure the border with Mexico,” Perry said on Fox News.

“That’s of great concern. I would suggest to you, it is really at the heart of this issue,” the three-term governor said.

Investigators have so far refused to address speculation about involvement by organized crime, either cartels or the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, a white supremacist prison gang that Hasse helped prosecute.

Another white supremacist prison gang that experts say is not connected to the ABT reportedly has been implicated in the slayings of Colorado prisons chief Tom Clements, 58, on March 19 and Nathan Leon, 27, a Denver-area pizza deliveryman, on March 17. 

The suspect in both of those shootings, recent Colorado parolee Evan Spencer Ebel, reportedly was a member of the 211 Crew, a Colorado-based white supremacist prison gang. Ebel, 28, fled to North Texas after the killings. He got into a firefight with Texas deputies on March 21 and died of his wounds.

Late Wednesday, Colorado authorities said they were searching for two "associates" of the 211 Crew: James Franklin Lohr, 47, and Thomas James Guolee, 31. Officials did not call them suspects in the Clement slaying, but said their names had come up during the investigation. Officials said the pair could be headed for Nevada or Texas. 

In the Texas case, a spokesman for the Kaufman County Sheriff’s Department, Lt. Justin Lewis, said Wednesday that a man charged with making threats against officials the day before was not a suspect in the prosecutors' shootings. But Lewis refused to say whether investigators were looking at a “person of interest” or at suspicious Facebook posts.

The potential “person of interest, ” Eric Williams, said through his attorney that he has cooperated with investigators, answering questions, turning over his cellphone and twice being tested for gunpowder residue after the Hasse and McLelland slayings.

Williams, a former Kaufman County justice of the peace, was convicted of burglary and theft last year. McLelland and Hasse were the prosecutors. 

“If I was in their shoes, I’d do the same thing, “ Williams said in a statement about being questioned in connection with the shootings. “They need to do a thorough process of elimination.”

“I’ve cooperated fully with law enforcement and wish them the best in bringing the perpetrator of the killings to justice,” he continued.

Williams declined to answer further questions via email late Wednesday.

ALSO:

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Colorado officials seek two 'associates' of white supremacist gang

Man arrested in Texas threats but not a suspect in killings, officials say

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