Texas DA murdered after pursuing alleged killer bent on targeting lawyers

New York Daily News

The murder was no mystery.

It was a shock, sure. People don’t gun down assistant district attorneys in broad daylight. Not in 2013. Not one block from the county courthouse.

When people heard about Mark Hasse’s execution, they were speechless.

But when they did start talking, it was about who they thought did it — and why.

[post_ads]“This case is local,” District Attorney Mike McLelland told another lawyer after Hasse’s funeral. “The killer is somebody bent on revenge. This is somebody really close to home.”

Get McLelland alone, in his office, and he might even share the name of that somebody.

But knowing it and proving it were different matters. And before McLelland’s suspicion turned into an arrest warrant, he and his wife were dead, too — with the killer focused on new targets.

Kathryn Casey’s true-crime book “In Plain Sight” tells that tale. But the veteran Houston journalist tells another story, too, of good ol’ boys and macho rage, of madmen stockpiling assault rifles and survivalists prepping for the apocalypse.

It’s set in Texas of five years ago, but it feels like a lot of America now, where suburban dads buy bulletproof vests and their wives gulp Oxycodone. Where compromise is ridiculed and grudges carefully cultivated until they bloom into bloody violence.

Looking back, the crimes seem almost inevitable, the killer and his principal target — both stubborn, unforgiving men — coming together like a slow-motion car crash.

Eric Williams grew up just outside of Fort Worth. A loner, he liked guns a little too much, even for the Lone Star State. He once shot his sister’s cat right through the eye, but folks expected him to grow out of that.

They were relieved when he started talking about becoming a soldier.

Michael McLelland grew up nearby, just outside Dallas. A beefy, popular guy, he married after high school and went to college with dreams of working as a history teacher. Once on campus, he joined the ROTC and considered an Army career instead.

The two men’s lives didn’t seem all that different.

Williams’ military career never did happen, and he eventually moved to rural Kaufman County. He married, became a lawyer, and then a justice of the peace.
McLelland did his stint in the service and became a Kaufman County lawyer, too, planning to go into politics.

He lost his first race for district attorney by 65 votes. Some friends wondered if he was done in by a letter to the local paper that questioned his character and noted that McLelland lied about being a lifelong Republican.

The letter was written by Eric Williams.

Eventually, McLelland did become the Kaufmann County DA. And, eventually, he heard Williams’ name again.

This time, it was Williams’ character under question. Office supplies he had charged to the county were never delivered, at least not to the office.

Surveillance cameras showed him sneaking $600 worth of computer equipment out of the building.

Small stuff, maybe — but not to McLelland.

He had Williams arrested, handcuffed and charged with theft. He told assistant district attorney Hasse to go after him hard. Don’t just put him in jail, “put him under the jail,” advised McLelland.

Williams was quickly tried and convicted. He lost his job and his law license. His lawyers appealed, but his career was already over.

His plot, though, was just hatching.

This wasn’t revenge, he told his wife. This was logical. If McLelland and Hasse were dead, others would take their place. Surely their replacements would see that he had been persecuted, not prosecuted.

Then he would get his old life back. But first, these two men had to lose theirs.

[post_ads]His wife Kim nodded numbly. Addicted to painkillers for years, she no longer argued with her spouse — even as he slept with other women. Even after he almost shot her as he cleaned his guns. Twice.

Assigned the job of getaway driver, she took Williams to the county courthouse in a cheap second-hand car. It seemed too easy. Williams jumped out, shot Hasse, and climbed back in. The couple ditched the car and Williams began plotting the next murder.

The execution of an assistant district attorney stunned the country. The ATF, the FBI and the Texas Rangers joined the investigation.

Though a few locals remembered the Williams trial and wondered about a connection, the feds sought bigger monsters. Could it be a Mexican drug cartel? The Aryan Brotherhood?

McLelland wasn’t sure. He was prepared, though. An end-of-days believer, his house was stockpiled with cases of canned food. He stashed loaded guns everywhere. Whatever came, he would be ready.

But he wasn’t ready for Eric Williams.

When the doorbell rang on the eve of Easter Sunday, Cynthia McLelland opened it and invited the visitor inside. Williams shot her dead.

Then he walked into the hallway and killed her husband. The murders were done in two minutes. Kim waited in another cheap getaway car.

It was all over. Or was it?

Williams wondered. He had other enemies, certainly. Like that old judge who befriended him when he first came to Kaufman County. Where was he when Williams needed him? He deserved killing, too.

This time though, Williams told his wife, he wasn’t going to use a gun. This time it would be a crossbow. He would gut the old man like a deer and fill his belly with napalm.

When she looked shocked, her husband explained how he already bought the crossbow and whipped up a batch of homemade napalm.

The murder of the McLellands only further convinced the authorities that smugglers or skinheads were involved. The murder of a district attorney, his wife, and a second prosecutor? There was nothing like it in U.S. history.

Local investigators remembered Williams’ ties to the two lawmen. They tried to keep the spotlight on him — although Williams needed no help in that regard.

He patrolled his quiet neighborhood on a Segway, armed and dressed in camouflage. He fought with his lawyers, who told him to keep quiet. He gave smirking interviews to reporters.

He finally became a little too talkative with detectives, chatting about the different kinds of guns he owned. That led to a search warrant, and authorities found an enemies list, with Hasse and McLelland at the top. They also found his storage unit crammed with guns and ammo.

And, finally, what they found convinced a jury to convict Williams and his wife of murder. He got the death penalty. She got 40 years.
The oddest thing discovered during the probe turned up on Williams’ computer. He was sending authorities anonymous tips on the killings all along, telling them what kind of weapons to look for. He was helping.

Was it the same kind of self-destructive urge that had led him to steal computer equipment from a room ringed with security cameras? Did he secretly want to be caught? Or was it just his own arrogance, convinced he was smarter than everyone else?

The detectives didn’t know. Williams probably doesn’t even know. And it’s too late to figure it out now.


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US News: Texas DA murdered after pursuing alleged killer bent on targeting lawyers
Texas DA murdered after pursuing alleged killer bent on targeting lawyers
US News
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