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At service for slain Texas prosecutor, daughter urges resolve

April 04, 2013|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske

SUNNYVALE, Texas — Police helicopters hovered overhead, officers mingled with the crowd and snipers positioned themselves on the roof of the church where mourners gathered Thursday to honor a local district attorney who was gunned down with his wife last Saturday.

More than 2,000 people filled Sunnyvale First Baptist Church for the memorial honoring Kaufman County Dist. Atty. Mike McLelland, 63, and his wife, Cynthia, 65.

No one has been arrested in connection with the slayings. The McLellands were killed less than two months after another local prosecutor, Mark Hasse, 57, was shot to death outside the courthouse in Kaufman. No one has been arrested in his killing. At a briefing before the memorial Thursday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry doubled the reward for information in the cases to $200,000, and investigators pleaded with the public for tips.

PHOTOS: Memorial service for slain Texas district attorney

Perry also spoke at the memorial, at one point directly to the McLelland family.

“Millions of people across this state are standing together with you in this tragedy, sharing your pain,” Perry said.

He recalled meeting McLelland three weeks ago at the Capitol in Austin. He said Hasse’s death weighed on McLelland, though “he didn’t let it diminish his resolve.”

Those closest to the McLellands told the gathering of their frustration and anger over the sudden, brutal attack Saturday.  

“I don’t know what their murderer hoped to accomplish,” said Bruce Bryant, lead investigator with the Kaufman County district attorney’s office. “We will not stop pursuing justice. I promise that. We will soldier on.”

McLelland’s daughter said her father believed in his work and wasn’t intimidated, even after Hasse’s death.

“He was going to stand his ground,” said Christina Foreman, 29, of Dallas.  “We need to follow his footsteps. The right thing is never easy -- it’s hard.”

Foreman, a nurse like her mother, exhorted Americans to honor their public servants, but also to be brave.

“We all need to stand up. Because what will make this a tragedy is if we don’t,” she said.   

At the end of the service, dozens of police officers from across North Texas filed past the casket, as did new interim Kaufman County Dist. Atty. Brandi Fernandez, who like many court staffers wore a green ribbon in Mike McLelland's honor.

Among the last to salute was one of the McLellands’ sons, Nathan Foreman, a Dallas police officer who appeared in uniform.

An honor guard carried the flag-draped casket outside, where rooftop snipers looked on as the guard’s rifles sounded in a salute and a police helicopter buzzed the crowd. Then the honor guard folded the flag and presented it to Gov. Perry, who in turn gave it to Cynthia McLelland’s mother.

PHOTOS: Memorial service for slain Texas district attorney

Bryant said Cynthia McLelland’s cremated remains will be placed inside the casket and buried with her husband.

A single siren sounded, cuing a chorus and a slew of flashing lights that signaled the start of the motorcade. They were headed about 85 miles south to McLelland’s hometown of Wortham, where a viewing was scheduled late Thursday, a funeral Friday.

As the motorcade departed, police lining the road stood at attention, offering a final salute.

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Molly.Hennessy-Fiske@latimes.com

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