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Texas home swarmed in search tied to law enforcement killings

April 12, 2013|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske

HOUSTON -- Authorities in North Texas searched the homes of a former justice of the peace and his relatives Friday in connection with the killings of a local district attorney, his wife and a top prosecutor.

Eric Williams, a former justice of the peace in Kaufman County, was convicted last year of stealing county equipment in a case prosecuted by slain Kaufman County Dist. Atty. Mike McLelland and Assistant Dist. Atty. Mark Hasse. Williams is appealing the conviction.

McLelland, 63, was found shot to death at his home near Forney, Texas, about 20 miles east of Dallas on March 30 along with his wife Cynthia, 65. Hasse, 57, was shot and killed on his way to work outside the county courthouse Jan. 31 in Kaufman, about 30 miles southeast of Dallas.

Williams has denied involvement in either shooting and has cooperated with investigators.

He declined comment Friday through his attorney, David Sergi.

“Eric simply does not want any more comments to feed a media frenzy which seems to have overtaken him,” Sergi said in an email to The Times. “He has cooperated with law enforcement and vigorously denies any and all allegations. He wishes simply to get on with his life and hopes that the perpetrators are brought to justice.”

Williams has been questioned by authorities in connection with the shootings, given his cellphone to investigators and submitted to gunpowder residue tests, Sergi has told The Times. Other individuals have been arrested and charged for making threats against Kaufman officials in recent days, none in connection with the killings, investigators have said.

Sergi said he could not comment further Friday.

It's not clear what motivated the killings. Experts have said the calculated attacks have the markings of hits by Mexican cartels or the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, a white supremacist prison gang that Hasse helped prosecute. But investigators have yet to link the slayings to a particular group or suspect.

A spokesman for the Kaufman County Sheriff’s office told The Times on Friday that investigators have not made any arrests or named suspects in the shootings. 

“Every tip we get we run to the ground,” Kaufman County Sheriff’s Lt. Justin Lewis said as he stood near the scene of the search.

Authorities blocked the residential road Friday evening as onlookers gathered and helicopters hovered, Lewis said.

Lewis could not immediately provide a copy of the search warrant.

He would not say whether a tip led to investigators’ request for warrants to search Williams’ Kaufman home and the nearby home of his in-laws. He would not say whether an arrest was imminent.

“It just means that we are continuing the investigation,” Lewis said.

molly.hennessy-fiske@latimes.com

Twitter: @mollyhf

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