KAUFMAN COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - A former Kaufman County justice of the peace was charged with capital murder Thursday in the deaths of a Kaufman County assistant prosecutor and the Kaufman County district attorney and his wife.
Eric Williams is being held in the Kaufman County Jail on multiple charges, including capital murder and terroristic threat, related to the deaths of Kaufman County district attorney Mike McLelland, his wife Cynthia and assistant district attorney Mark Hasse. Eric Williams is being held on a total bond of $23 million.
Williams has been in the Kaufman County Jail since early Saturday morning. He was arrested on a terroristic threat charge after investigators discovered evidence he had made threats via electronic communication against Kaufman County officials shortly after Mike and Cynthia McLelland were killed on March 30.
The capital murder charge against Eric Williams comes one day after his wife, 46-year-old Kim Williams, was arrested and charged with capital murder for her role in the deaths of Hasse and the McLellands. Judicial records show she was booked into the Kaufman County Jail at 2:58 a.m. on Wednesday. She is being held on a bond of $10 million.
In an interview with police, Kim Williams gave investigators details about the murders that were not available to the public. Kim Williams told police that her husband, Eric Williams was involved in the murder plot.
According to officials, Eric Williams was the triggerman in both killings. Kim Williams drove in the Hasse slaying and was a passenger in the car the night the McLellands were killed.
Mike and Cynthia McLelland were found shot to death in their Forney home on March 30, two months after Mark Hasse was gunned down while walking to the Kaufman County Courthouse on January 31.
In March 2012, Eric Williams was prosecuted by the Kaufman County district attorney's office for stealing equipment from Kaufman County. He was convicted and was removed from office. After that case, Hasse and Mike McLelland began carrying handguns because they believed Eric Williams was a threat to their safety.
Authorities said in arrest affidavits and in a Thursday press conference that they believe Williams' legal problems with the county may have led the couple to commit the crime.
"I don't know that I could assess the motive. It's kind of mind-boggling to me that someone would go out and shoot three innocent people for any motive," said Kaufman County Sheriff David Byrnes on Thursday.
A search warrant obtained on Monday shows that the Williams' home was searched on Friday, April 12, in connection with the murders of Kaufman County Prosecutor Mark Hasse, and Kaufman County DA Mike McLelland and his wife Cynthia.
Eric Williams' arrest affidavit says that in searching his home and his in-law's home on April 12, investigators found numerous weapons, including rifles and revolvers that matched the calibers believed to kill the McLellands and Mark Hasse.
According to the arrest affidavit, Hasse's autopsy results revealed he was shot multiple times, "with what appeared to be a weapon capable of firing a .38 or .357 caliber cartridge and that the weapon used was possibly a Smith and Wesson or Ruger style weapon." Authorities recovered two .357 caliber handguns from Eric Williams' in-laws' home on April 12.
The arrest affidavit also reveals the McLellands were both shot multiple times, and that evidence at the scene suggested they were killed by "a weapon capable of firing a .223 caliber cartridge." Authorities recovered "come component parts of weapons consistent with an AR-style weapon, capable of firing .223 caliber ammunition like that used in the McLelland murders" during their search of Eric Williams' home on April 12.
However, Sheriff Byrnes said that finding a storage unit Saturday that Eric Williams had rented in Seagoville proved to be the break in the case. The arrest affidavit notes that Williams had purchased a 2004 White Ford Crown Victoria in February 2013 under the alias "Richard Greene." Williams had parked the Crown Victoria in the unit, which had been seen in security camera footage leaving the McLelland's neighborhood shortly after their murders.
The affidavit says security camera footage near the storage unit shows the Crown Victoria leaving the storage unit shortly before the McLelland murders and returning shortly after the McLelland murders. In addition, records at the storage facility indicate the storage unit was accessed shortly after Mark Hasse's death.
In addition to the Crown Victoria, authorities recovered 41 firearms from the storage unit, "including eight .223 caliber weapons, two .38 caliber handguns and one .357 caliber handgun, two .223 'lowers' with no 'uppers,'" and "ammunition consistent with that used during the Hasse ... and McLelland murders."
Authorities from at least ten local, state, and federal agencies were on hand during a press briefing Thursday to discuss the capital murder charge against Eric Williams. They all touted teamwork as the reason they were able to put Eric and Kim Williams behind bars.
"From the very onset, everyone involved in this criminal investigation has been acutely aware of the vital importance of determining the identity of those responsible for this heinous act," said Kirby Denby, a chief with the Texas Rangers.
County Judge Bruce Wood said Wednesday after Kim Williams's arrest that his courthouse employees had a sense of relief that the case is moving forward.
"Even though this charge of capital murder has occurred with perhaps another charge coming later on, sometime with Mr. Williams, we're still in a state of shock and disbelief," Wood said.
Wood worked with Mark Hasse and Mike McLelland and said Kim Williams's arrest is the "beginning stage of the justice process."
"Quite honestly, this is a troubling, this is a tragic series of events that none of would have ever expected to occur in our county," Wood said. "There is a sense of relief that perhaps this case is moving forward with the arrest and charge of Mrs. Williams."
Wood said Wednesday that Mike McLelland told him the day of Mark Hasse's murder that Eric Williams was the person police should be investigating.
"My belief was certainly he would be investigated and was investigated, and the other discussions I had with Mr. McLelland was, there was very little evidence at the crime scene and that hurt as far as the investigation was concerned," Wood said.
"I don't think anybody could have written a novel, maybe, that would have played out this story like it has done," he added.
Carol Altom lives on the same block as the Williams and was good friends with Cynthia McLelland.
"I don't know why she had to die over this. I really don't," she said. "I can understand the DA and the assistant, but not her. She had nothing to do with it."
Altom said Wednesday she was shocked to hear the news of Kim and Eric Williams's arrests.
"I can't believe they did it, if he did do it. I'm not sure he did yet. But I'm amazed if it is the truth," she said.
Overall, investigators said Thursday they were relieved that justice had been served.
"January 31st and March 30th will forever be days of sorrow and remembrance in Kaufman," said Diego Rodriguez, the FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Dallas office on Thursday. "Today, though, the residents of Kaufman and all of those sworn to protect the rights, freedom and safety of individuals throughout our country should celebrate the success in law enforcement and that justice has been delivered to the citizens of Kaufman and the families of Mark Hasse and Mike and Cynthia McLelland."
Eric and Kim Williams will remain in the Kaufman County Jail. If convicted, both could face the death penalty.
Authorities say their investigation is ongoing, but they do not believe there are any other major actors in the case.