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Wife of ex-official charged in Texas killings

Authorities say Kim Lene Williams confessed and said her husband, an ex-justice of the peace, shot prosecutors Mark Hasse and Mike McLelland and McLelland's wife.

April 17, 2013|By John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times
  • Kim Lene Williams "confessed to her involvement to the scheme and course of conduct in the shooting deaths," authorities said.
Kim Lene Williams "confessed to her involvement to the scheme and… (Kaufman County Sheriff's…)

The wife of a former justice of the peace has been charged with capital murder in connection with the slayings of a northern Texas district attorney, his wife and an assistant district attorney, authorities said Wednesday.

Kim Lene Williams, 46, was arrested early Wednesday and is being held on a $10-million bond, officials said at a brief news conference outside the Kaufman County jail.

"We're not answering anymore questions today," Kaufman County sheriff's spokesman Lt. Justin Lewis said in a telephone interview. "Today we are going to brief the family."

Williams' arrest and charges are the latest twist in a case that has sent a chill of insecurity through the rural county just outside Dallas.

The first slaying took place in late January, when Kaufman County Assistant Dist. Atty. Mark Hasse, 57, was gunned down outside the county courthouse, prompting many to speculate the killing might be connected to drug smugglers or the Aryan Brotherhood.

Then in late March, Kaufman County Dist. Atty. Mike McLelland, 63, and his wife, Cynthia, 65, were found dead in their home. Officials then considered as a suspect Eric Williams, 46, a former justice of the peace who had been prosecuted for theft by McLelland and Hasse. He was accused of stealing three computers.

During closing arguments in that case, the prosecutors presented testimony indicating that Williams had made death threats against a former girlfriend and an attorney.

A jury found Williams guilty; he received two years' probation and lost his law license and job.

Texas authorities said that on Tuesday, in an interview with an investigator, Kim Williams "confessed to her involvement to the scheme and course of conduct in the shooting deaths," according to an affidavit signed by Sgt. Matt Woodall of the Kaufman County Sheriff's Department.

The document states that "Kim Williams described in detail her role with that of her husband, Eric Williams, whom she reported to have shot to death Mark Hasse on Jan. 31, 2013, and Michael and Cynthia McLelland on March 30, 2013."

Kim Williams also "gave details of both offenses which had not been made public," the affidavit says.

Authorities have not described the evidence against Kim Williams, but in recent days investigators have searched the Williams home, that of Kim Williams' parents and a storage unit in nearby Seagoville.

On Saturday, authorities arrested Eric Williams and charged him with making a terrorist threat.

A probable cause affidavit says Eric Williams sent an email one day after the McLellands' bodies were discovered implying there would be another attack if authorities didn't respond to various demands. Authorities say they determined that the email was sent from Williams' personal computer.

His bond was initially set at $3 million, but a judge ruled the bond insufficient, meaning Williams was in effect held without bond Wednesday.

Pete Schulte, a Dallas lawyer who knows the area, described Kaufman County as a small quaint area of 110,000 residents, dwarfed by neighboring Dallas County, with a population of more than 2 million. "It's rural America, even by Texas standards," he said.

He said Hasse's death alarmed residents. "People were in shock," Schulte said. "They wondered if things were getting to the point where Texas law enforcement officials were getting killed for just doing their jobs. It seemed like random violence."

Now, residents have a focus for their concern with the arrest of the Williams couple: their own neighbors. "This is just the beginning," Schulte said. "These are people that the community knows. And now comes the trial. This is nowhere near being over with."

Those who knew Mike and Cynthia McLelland were still searching for answers Wednesday.

"We're all kind of shocked that this is pointing to someone in our own community," said Laurie Mcwha, owner of the Especially for You tearoom across the street from where Mike McLelland practiced law.

She said the McLellands often visited her business, located in a former bank.

"They were a sweet couple who came here regularly for a quick lunch and talked about court business with judges and lawyers," she said. "Mike was lots of fun. He was cowboy nice, always smiling. And Cynthia was so sweet. She loved to knit."

She added, "I don't know when the moving on for this community is going to start. We're all just still speechless."

john.glionna@latimes.com

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