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Couple charged with murder in killings of Texas officials

Eric Williams and his wife, Kim, are charged in the killings of an assistant district attorney and a district attorney and his spouse in Kaufman County, Texas.

April 18, 2013|By Matt Pearce, Los Angeles Times
  • Kaufman County Sheriff David Byrnes announces murder charges against Eric Lyle Williams and his wife, Kim, in the killings of assistant prosecutor Mark Hasse and Dist. Atty. Mike McLelland and his wife.
Kaufman County Sheriff David Byrnes announces murder charges against… (Rodger Mallison, Fort Worth…)

The murder charges weren't for the white supremacists, even though they'd threatened to kill the Texas prosecutors threatening to put them away; nor were they for the cartels, even though they'd long ravaged law enforcement down in Mexico.

Instead, officials in Texas believe a trio of slayings near Dallas boiled down to simple revenge: A disgraced former justice of the peace and his wife stand accused of murdering the Texas prosecutors who ended his career.

Eric Lyle Williams, 46, was charged with capital murder Thursday, one day after his wife, Kim Lene Williams, 46, was similarly charged in two attacks that shocked Kaufman County and led to fears of an unprecedented assault on the rule of law in Texas.

Officials believe the couple worked together without outside help in killing Kaufman County Assistant Dist. Atty. Mark Hasse outside the County Courthouse in late January and Dist. Atty. Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, in their home March 30.

Kaufman County Sheriff David Byrnes said Thursday at a news conference that Eric Williams did the shooting and Kim Williams did the driving in Hasse's killing, and that she waited in the car while her husband killed the McLellands at their home.

"It's kind of mind-boggling to me that someone would go out and shoot three innocent people for any motive," Byrnes said of Eric Williams.

McLelland and Hasse had prosecuted the former justice of the peace in the theft of three computers. In that case, the prosecutors presented testimony that Williams had made death threats against a former girlfriend and an attorney.

A jury found Williams guilty of the theft. He received two years' probation but lost his law license and job. Investigators said Hasse and McLelland had started carrying guns out of fear of what Williams might do in revenge.

Before the attacks, officials said, Williams searched the Internet for information on Hasse and McLelland that would have included data on their homes and vehicles; a friend said he also had asked how to destroy the part of an AR-15 rifle, the upper receiver, that is commonly used to make matches in ballistic tests.

Byrnes said the case broke open when officials discovered a storage unit that Williams kept under a friend's name. It contained 41 guns — including pistols and AR-15-style rifles — and a white Ford Crown Victoria. Other weapons, including AR-15 rifles, were found at Williams' home. None of the rifles had upper receivers.

Officials found video from before and after the McLellands' deaths that apparently shows the Williams' Ford Explorer entering and leaving the storage facility for a car swap with the Crown Victoria, which was spotted in the McLellands' neighborhood on the day of the attack.

On Tuesday, during questioning, Kim Williams confessed to her role and that of her husband, officials said, and the capital murder charges followed. Under Texas law, suspected accomplices can be prosecuted for the same charges as a suspected perpetrator.

Eric Williams has been in the Kaufman County jail since Saturday, when officials arrested him on suspicion of making a "terroristic threat" against investigators from his personal computer the day after the McLellands' deaths. "The threat implied unless law enforcement responded to the demands of the writer, another attack would occur," police said in the affidavit establishing probable cause for his arrest.

"Eric Williams has always been on the radar," Byrnes said. "We talked to him immediately after Mark Hasse's death and also the night of the McLelland shooting.... We obviously had arrested Eric before on this other thing, and it's obviously not pleasant."

"[He] used to be a reserve officer for me," Byrnes added. "So it's very distasteful, to say the least."

matt.pearce@latimes.com

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